Libya: Car bomb hits French embassy in Tripoli


Libyan security forces and civilians gather across the street from the French embassy in Tripoli following a car bomb blast, on April 23, 2013.



NAIROBI, Kenya – A suspected car bomb hit the French embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Tuesday, in the first attack on a foreign mission since militants stormed the US consulate in Benghazi in September.

The explosion, in an upscale neighborhood of the Libyan capital, wounded two French embassy guards. 

A 13-year-old Libyan girl in a nearby house was also injured in the blast, which blew off the front wall of the embassy and caused extensive damage to adjacent homes and cars, CNN reported. The BBC said several other residents "were slightly hurt."

After the attack in Tripoli, shots were fired near the French embassy in Yemen, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the French foreign ministry in Paris.

"This morning a person fired shots into the air near our embassy in Yemen," said a foreign ministry spokesman.

"We will monitor security developments on the ground very carefully."

French President Francois Hollande called on authorities in Tripoli to quickly bring the perpetrators of the bomb attack to justice. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement:

"In liaison with the Libyan authorities, the services of the state will do everything to establish the circumstances of this odious act and rapidly identify the perpetrators."

Sky News cited a Libyan official as saying the explosion was caused by a booby-trapped car, with Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel Aziz labeling it a "terrorist" act.

Journalist William Crisp, reporting from the scene, told Sky News that "the engine block of the car landed quite a way from the embassy." 

"It was quite a strong blast." Crisp said. 

Libya has grappled with insecurity since the 2011 ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Al Gaddafi led to the dissolution of state institutions and police and army forces. 

The US was directly targeted on September 11, 2012, when heavily armed men overran the American mission in Benghazi, setting fire to much of the compound. Ambassador Chris Stevens was among four Americans killed.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for today's morning attack.

But one possible reason for the singling out of France may lie in Mali, to the southwest, where French troops have dealt a serious blow to Al Qaeda aligned jihadist groups since January, says GlobalPost's Senior Correspondent in Nairobi, Tristan McConnell. 

France's military intervention to defend the Malian government in Bamako against an advance by jihadist groups based in the country's north, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has been swift and effective.

French embassies across northern Africa have been on high alert since January as a result.

But AQIM threatened revenge against France as recently as last week, McConnell reports. The group, on its Twitter account, called on "all Muslims to target France and its interests and subjects inside and outside France."  

A French family kidnapped by Nigerian Islamists in northern Cameroon in February was released last week.

On Monday, the French parliament voted in favour of extending the operation in Mali.


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