TRIPOLI, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Libya's defence minister said on Monday his former deputy, who he sacked last week, was behind a shooting on his convoy at the weekend, a charge denied by his ex-colleague.
Conflicting reports immediately after Saturday's attack, Monday's accusation and the denial that followed it highlight the struggle in Libya to impose order following the 2011 war that ended Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule.
In a statement read to Reuters by his office, Defence Minister Mohammed al-Bargathi said Sadeeq al-Ghaithi was behind the attack in Tobruk from which he escaped unhurt.
Ghaithi had said that the shooting was related to "tribal matters", which Bargathi's statement denied. Contacted by Reuters, Ghaithi denied the defence minister's accusations.
"This is a dangerous accusation; any such charge requires evidence," he said by phone. "This needs to be investigated."
Ghaithi, from Tobruk in eastern Libya, had been in charge of the country's borders and oil installations.
Bargathi was travelling with his new deputy, Abdelkhaliq Ibrahim al-Obeidi, to a military air base in the city, when the car was shot at, according to Bargathi's office.
"Al-Ghaithi is responsible for the attack ... He encouraged his supporters to do it," the statement said.
Bargathi's statement said Ghaithi was among deputy ministers from the former interim government that Prime Minister Ali Zeidan had decided to replace after the new administration was sworn in in November.
Immediately after the attack, security officials had said Bargathi had not been targeted but that his security officers had fired warning shots when a dispute broke out between military units at the Tobruk base.
Deadly confrontations are frequent in the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the revolt, which has seen a wave of attacks targeting foreign diplomats, military and police officers.
And, earlier this month, the head of Libya's national congress survived an assassination attempt at his home in the remote desert south, his spokesman said. (Reporting by Ali Shuaib; Editing by Louise Ireland)