ISIS Claims Attacks on Iranian Ambassador Residence in Libya

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Libyan security forces inspect the site of a bomb explosion at the entrance of the residence of the Iranian ambassador in the capital Tripoli on February 22, 2015.AFP.

Published Monday, February 23, 2015

Militants claiming loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said they were behind Sunday's twin bomb attacks on the residence of the Iranian ambassador in the Libyan capital and a rocket strike on the eastern Labraq airport.

The attack on the ambassador's residence came two days after the group claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing that killed more than 40 people in the eastern town of Qubbah, one of the deadliest attacks on civilians since 2011.

On Sunday, two bombs exploded at the gate of the Iranian ambassador's residence in central Tripoli. Iran's official IRNA news agency confirmed the blasts and said there had been no casualties, adding Iran had already suspended operations there.

"Two devices were laid, one exploded first and then the other. The point of the second bomb was to create confusion," Colonel Jumaa al-Mashri from the National Security Agency told Tripoli-based al-Nabaa television.

"Soldiers of the Islamic State caliphate [ISIS] targeted the Iranian embassy in Tripoli," the group said in a statement posted with pictures of a flame on Twitter.

In Tehran, foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham spoke of "minor damage" to the residence and called for a political dialogue in conflict-hit Libya to counter "terrorists and extremists."

She said Iran opposes foreign intervention in Libya, where talks between the North African country's rival factions must lead to the creation of a national unity government.

Western powers are concerned that Libya is emerging as a thriving battleground for militants loyal to ISIS, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria. Islamist fighters have exploited instability in Libya as two rival governments fight for control of territory.

The group has stepped up attacks since Egypt launched airstrikes on suspected militant targets in the eastern Libyan city of Derna on February 16, a day after Islamists released a video showing the execution of a group of Egyptian Coptic Christians.

The militants affiliated to ISIS also claimed responsibility for a Grad rocket attack on Labraq airport, announced by officials on Saturday. No one was hurt. The airport is the main gateway into eastern Libya and Bayda, seat of the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani.

His government and the House of Representatives, elected in June, have been working out of the east since a faction called Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) seized Tripoli in August, reinstating the previous assembly and setting up a rival administration.

Almost four years after a NATO-backed war ended Muammar Gaddafi's one-man rule, Libya has descended into chaos with Thani’s government forced to flee the capital.

Amid the chaos, a number of Islamist militant groups have been active in Libya. A few have declared ties to ISIS and claimed high-profile attacks over recent weeks in what appears to be an intensifying campaign.

Militants affiliated to ISIS have also taken over government and university buildings in Sirte, a central city and birthplace of Gaddafi, according to residents.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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