Shukri Ghanem, a former Libyan prime minister and oil minister who last year announced he was abandoning Muammar Qaddafi’s regime to support the rebels who ultimately toppled the dictator, was found dead Sunday in a section of the Danube river flowing through Vienna, Austrian police said.
Police spokesman Roman Hahslinger said the 69-year-old’s corpse was found floating in the river early in the morning. The body showed no external signs of violence, but the cause of death was not immediately clear and an autopsy will be carried out, Hahslinger said.
“There would be no signs of violence if someone pushed him in,” Hahslinger said. “But it’s also possible that he became ill and fell into the water.”
An Austrian foreign ministry official said family members initially told the ministry that Ghanem had died of a heart attack, adding that their version appeared to be plausible. He demanded anonymity because his ministry was not in charge of investigations.
More complete results were expected later in the week with a toxicology report following probably next week, he said, without giving any more details as to what might have led to the drowning.
The police were continuing their inquiries and possible witnesses were also being questioned to clarify Ghanem’s death, which apparently occurred in the early hours of Sunday.
Ghanem was found by a passer-by Sunday morning floating in the water fully clothed in a part of the Danube flanked on both sides by dozens of bars and restaurants, and just a few hundred meters (yards) from the flat where he lived with at least one daughter, Hahslinger said.
Asked by journalists whether the death could have been a suicide or a murder, Hahslinger said Ghanem’s behavior had apparently been very normal on the evening before his death, but that he felt “slightly ill.”
The police had no information of any serious illness Ghanem may have had and found no suicide notes or written threats.
Ghanem’s daughter noticed her father was missing Sunday morning around 10:00 a.m. (0800GMT), by which time the body had already been found.
The former minister was carrying no identification but police found on him the address of a Viennese company that allowed him to be identified.
It was unclear where Ghanem may have fallen in the Danube, Hahslinger also said. The preliminary autopsy results however indicate he was not in the water for very long before he was found, maybe one or two hours.
Ghanem served as Libya’s oil minister from 2006 to 2011 but abandoned Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in mid-May last year as it battled the rebels who ultimately were to overthrow it with Western help.