Suicide car bomb targets Libya parliament in Tobruk

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Published Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A suicide bomber detonated a car laden with explosives in front of a hotel where Libya's elected parliament was in session in the eastern city of Tobruk on Tuesday, wounding three deputies, the assembly's spokesman said.

The blast took place at the entrance of a hotel where the House of Representatives, allied to the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, regularly holds its sessions, Farraj Hashem, a parliamentary spokesman, told Reuters by phone.

"The car bomb caused heavy damage inside the building," lawmaker Tareq al-Garrouchi told Anadolu news agency, adding that casualties had been reported.

Almost four years after a NATO-backed war ended Muammar Gaddafi's one-man rule in 2011, Libya is struggling with instability as two rival administrations compete for power and warring armed factions skirmish for control of territory across the North African state.

In August, Thani and his cabinet were forced to leave Tripoli for the remote east when militants from Fajr Libya seized the capital. The new rulers of Tripoli have set up their own administration, the General National Congress (GNC), which has not been recognized by the United Nations and world powers.

Tuesday's bombing is the biggest attack on the parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk to date. A car bomb exploded in the city in November, but did not target the assembly.

Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, has enjoyed more security than the rest of the oil-producing country.

According to a joint report by the UN human rights office and UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), at least 120,000 people have been driven by months of conflict from their homes and caused a humanitarian crisis.

The report, which also documented shelling of civilian areas, said an estimated 100 people have been killed in fighting between rival armed groups in Warshefana, near Tripoli, between late August and early October, and 170 have been killed in fighting in the Nafusa mountains to the southwest.

Meanwhile, some 450 people have been killed in Benghazi since fighting escalated in mid-October. Hospitals in the city have been hit or occupied by armed groups.

Amnesty International said in a report late October that both pro-government and rebel militias vying for control of western Libya are committing war crimes including torturing detainees and targeting civilians.

The fighting has also caused frequent fuel, power and water shortages, increased food prices and damaged infrastructure.

The UN held a round of peace talks last week where the warring factions appeared to have agreed a path forward, announcing a new round to be held on January 5.

Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya Bernadino Leon said during a visit to Tripoli on December 9 that talks, which include members of the GNC, will focus on the eventual formation of a national unity government.

However, according to Leon, agreeing first on smaller steps, such as local ceasefire, “are key starting points to a broader dialogue.”

The UN had launched a first round of talks in September bringing together the elected House of Representatives and members from the city of Misrata linked to Fajr Libya who had boycotted the assembly.

A previous attempt to arrange UN-brokered talks between the warring factions in June was unsuccessful.

Besides the growing destabilization caused by rival governments, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group is believed to have been gaining a foothold in Libya, threatening to engulf neighboring countries.

Last month, the UN Security Council added the Libyan group Ansar al-Sharia to its terror list over its links to al-Qaeda and for running training camps for ISIS militants sent to Syria and Iraq.

(Reuters, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)

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