A car bomb exploded near the French embassy in Libya yesterday, wounding two French guards and causing extensive damage in the first attack on a foreign mission since militants stormed the US consulate in Benghazi in September last year.
Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel Aziz branded the act a “terrorist” incident, while French President Francois Hollande said Tripoli must act quickly to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
The attack comes as Libya continues to suffer from a lack of security following the 2011 ouster of late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and as French forces are engaged in a battle against Islamist extremists in Mali.
The explosion occurred at about 7:10am, Tripoli security chief Mahmoud al-Sherif said, after an explosives-laden car was parked outside the mission’s front door.
Sherif said “this was not a suicide bombing,” adding that “we face several threats and enemies, and it is too early to point to any party in particular.”
The wall surrounding the property was destroyed and the embassy building extensively damaged, with one French employee saying “there’s nothing left of my office.”
The explosion, which created a deep crater in the street, destroyed two cars parked nearby, damaged two neighboring villas and blew out the windows of a shop 200m away.
The street in front of the mission was flooded with water, apparently from a pipe ripped by the blast.
A French source said one guard was seriously wounded and another lightly hurt in the attack on the mission, housed in a two-story villa in the upmarket Gargaresh area.
Libyan state news agency Lana added that a girl living in the neighborhood was also hurt, but gave no details.
“It was a big mistake to site the French embassy in our neighborhood,” a local resident said.
Jamal Omar, who lives across the street and whose face was slightly injured, said the car must have been parked only minutes before the explosion.
“I was sweeping outside my house, and there wasn’t any car in front of the embassy. The explosion happened less than five minutes after I went back inside,” Omar said.
France condemned the “odious” attack.
“In liaison with the Libyan authorities, the services of the state will do everything to establish the circumstances of this odious act and rapidly identify the perpetrators,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement.
A diplomat in Paris said Fabius would fly to Tripoli yesterday.
Hollande said in a statement that “France expects the Libyan authorities to ensure that all possible light is shed on this unacceptable act so that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice.”
Libya’s foreign minister condemned the bombing as a “terrorist act,” but declined to speculate on who carried it out or what the motive was.