Foreign ministry in Tripoli attacked by suicide bombers
TRIPOLI - At least three people were killed when suicide bombers attacked Libya's foreign ministry in Tripoli on Tuesday, the health ministry said. The assailants were suspected to be Islamic State militants, a security source said.
The three attackers began their assault with a car bomb, damaging vehicles and buildings, and then opened fire on the ministry. Two managed to get inside and blow themselves up. The other was killed by ministry guards, the source said.
Heavy smoke rose from the building which was surrounded by security forces as people were rushed to hospital. The health ministry said at least eleven people were wounded.
The ministry denounced the attack on its employees, saying: "the Libyan people are waging a war on terrorism on behalf of the world."
A source from Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade, one of the strongest armed groups in the capital, said their spokesman, Abdulrahman Mazoughi, died in the attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Torn apart by power struggles and undermined by chronic insecurity, Libya has become a haven for jihadists since the ouster and killing of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. Suicide bombers have targeted a number of Libya's vital institutions as militant groups take advantage of the chaotic political situation.
Two competing administrations, rival militias, tribes and jihadists have been competing for control of territory and the country's vast oil wealth.
The Islamic State jihadist group (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 (GNA) regained control of the city in December 2016 after eight months of deadly fighting.
Since then, some jihadists have returned to the desert in an attempt to regroup and reorganise.
In September, IS claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on the headquarters of Libya's National Oil Company in the heart of Tripoli which left two dead and 10 wounded.
Four months earlier, it claimed an attack on the electoral commission's headquarters which left 14 dead.
In April, the GNA launched an operation to track down IS fighters operating in areas of western Libya under its control.
Last month IS claimed responsibility for an attack on militia forces in southeastern Libya in which at least nine people were killed.
The US military has regularly carried out strikes on jihadists in Libya, particularly south of Sirte.
The GNA was set up under a 2015 UN-brokered deal, but a rival administration based in the country's east aligned with military strongman Khalifa Haftar refuses to recognise its authority.
Rival Libyan leaders had agreed to a Paris-brokered deal in May to hold a nationwide election by the end of the year.
But instability, territorial disputes and divisions have delayed plans for elections.
Two days of meetings last month in Italy laid bare deep divisions between key players in the crisis with some delegates refusing to sit side by side.