Thu, Dec 27, 2018 - Page 6 News List

IS claims attack on Libyan ministry that killed three

AFP, TRIPOLI

Smoke rises from the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Tripoli on Tuesday in a screengrab from YouTube.

Photo: Reuters / Mohammed Elgotani

Suicide attackers on Tuesday stormed the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tripoli, killing at least three people, including a senior civil servant, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Twenty-one people were wounded in the attack, authorities said.

A car bomb exploded near the ministry, prompting security forces to rush to the scene, Libyan Special Forces spokesman Tarak al-Dawass said.

A suicide bomber then blew himself up on the second floor of the building while a second attacker died when a suitcase he was carrying exploded, he said.

A third assailant, who was unarmed and wearing a bulletproof vest, was killed by security forces outside, Dawass added.

One of the dead was senior diplomat Ibrahim al-Shaibi, who headed a department, Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs Tahar Siala said.

IS claimed the attack in a statement distributed on social media.

Libyan Minister of Internal Affairs Fathi Bash Agha told a news conference that “security chaos” reigned in Libya and was “out of our control.”

It was creating a “fertile ground” for IS to operate in the North African country, he added.

Torn apart by power struggles and undermined by chronic insecurity, Libya has become a haven for militants since the ouster and killing of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

IS took advantage of the chaos to gain a foothold in the coastal city of Sirte in 2015.

Forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord regained control of Sirte in December 2016 after eight months of deadly fighting.

Since then, some jihadists have returned to the desert in an attempt to regroup and reorganize.

Bach Agha said his department lacked the equipment necessary to restore law and order in Libya, adding that he found “zero weapons and zero vehicles” in the ministry’s warehouses when he took up his job in October.

“Weakness and a security breakdown” allowed assailants to attack the foreign ministry, he said.

Siala said that the UN should lift an arms embargo it has imposed on Libya since the 2011 uprising.

“Stability cannot be restored ... without a partial lifting of the embargo. It is needed to guarantee security and combat terrorism,” Siala told reporters.

UN mission in Libya head Ghassan Salame in a statement denounced the “cowardly terrorist attack” and pledged to work with the Libyan people “to prevent terrorist groups from turning Libya into a haven ... for their crimes.”

British Ambassador to Libya Frank Baker also denounced an “appalling terrorist attack” and tweeted his condolences to the families of the victims.

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