Suicide car bomb targets Libyan parliament

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing but officials have blamed previous attacks on Islamist extremists based in the eastern town of Darna, who have pledged allegiance to ISIL.
A storage tank at the Al Sidra oil port. Libya has approved a Dh22 million deal with a US firm to extinguish the fires at the terminal. Reuters
A storage tank at the Al Sidra oil port. Libya has approved a Dh22 million deal with a US firm to extinguish the fires at the terminal. Reuters

TRIPOLI // A suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into the outer gate of Libya’s internationally recognised parliament on Tuesday, injuring 18 people.

Parliamentarian Abu Bakr Baeira said no one was killed in the attack on the parliament’s temporary headquarters in the eastern city of Tobruk. The house of representatives has been forced to convene at the Dar Al Salam Hotel outside Tobruk’s city centre since Islamist militias seized the capital Tripoli over the summer and installed a rival government.

A security official said 18 people were lightly injured in the attack, including three children and lawmaker Mohamed Warfalli, who was slightly hurt in the face by flying glass.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing but officials have blamed previous attacks on Islamist extremists based in the eastern town of Darna, who have pledged allegiance to ISIL.

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

Tobruk, which is near the Egyptian border, has enjoyed much better security than the rest of the country and the Dar Al Salam Hotel has two security checkpoints through which visitors must pass when arriving from the main road.

Widespread militia violence has plunged Libya into chaos less than four years after a Nato-backed uprising toppled and killed former leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Two oil tanks remained on fire on Tuesday at Libya’s Al Sidra oil port almost a week after clashes there sparked a blaze. Two other tanks had collapsed, while fires at another two tanks had been extinguished, a spokesman for state National Oil Corp (NOC) said. The damage in the extinguished tanks was unclear.

An industry source said at least 1.2 million barrels of oil had been destroyed by the fire which broke out on December 25 after fighters from the Islamist coalition of militias, Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn), launched an offensive on Al Sidra, which is currently held by anti-Islamist forces allied to prime minister Abdullah Al Thinni’s government in Tobruk. Fajr Libya controls much of Tripoli, as well as Libya’s second and third cities, Benghazi and Misurata. On Sunday, pro-government forces launched air strikes on Misurata for the first time.

A Libyan air force jet shot down a militia helicopter on Tuesday after Fajr Libya fighters launched air strikes on the key Al Sidra terminal.

Militia aircraft, including the helicopter, attacked pro-government forces deployed in the so-called “oil crescent” eastern region around the port, said spokesman Ali Al Hassi.

“The air force shot down the helicopter as it prepared to land at a military base near Sirte airport, after it had taken part with other aircraft in the air raids,” Mr Al Hassi said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

On Monday, Libya’s internationally recognised government approved a US$6 million (Dh22m) deal with a US firm that will send experts to extinguish the fires at the Al Sidra terminal.

Shipments from Al Sidra and neighbouring Ras Lanuf — Libya’s two largest oil ports — were halted earlier this month after clashes first erupted around the terminals on December 13.

Since then, Libya’s oil production has dropped to less than 350,000 barrels per day from 800,000 previously, industry experts say.

The ports of Zawiya and Mellitah in the west of the country have also halted oil exports as the conflict has shut down the connecting fields of El Sharara and El Feel. Only the ports of Hariga and Brega in the east and two offshore fields are still working.

The conflict in Libya has left hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands internally displaced. Most diplomatic missions have shut down their embassies and many foreign workers have fled the country.

UN-sponsored talks between the rival governments are scheduled for January 5.

* Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse

Published: December 31, 2014 04:00 AM

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