Attackers hit Libya foreign ministry in Tripoli, one dead

Gunfire and explosions rocked Libya’s foreign ministry on Tuesday as attackers stormed the building in the capital Tripoli, killing at least one person, witnesses and a security source said.

A car bomb exploded in front of the ministry, after which “three or four assailants” entered, the source told AFP from the scene.

A suicide bomber then struck inside and gunfire broke out, according to the source, who said the victim was a civil servant.

Plumes of smoke were seen rising from the building as ambulances, paramedics and security forces gathered outside.

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.

Two competing administrations, rival militias, tribes and jihadists have been competing for control of territory and the country’s vast oil wealth.

Ambulances, paramedics and security officers at the scene of an attack on the Libyan foreign ministry in Tripoli on December 25, 2018

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.

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