French embassy in Tripoli bombed, 2 injured: Sources

AFP , Tuesday 23 Apr 2013

Libya's French embassy was hit by a car bomb, injuring two French guards and causing damage to the embassy building and wall, and two surrounding villas

A car bomb hit the France embassy in Libya, wounding two French guards and causing extensive damage in the first attack on a foreign mission since militants stormed the US consulate in Benghazi in September.

The Libyan foreign ministry called the attack in Tripoli a "terrorist" incident.

An AFP correspondent at the site said the wall surrounding the property was destroyed and the embassy building extensively damaged. Two cars parked near the embassy were also destroyed.

The explosion occurred around 7:00 am (0500 GMT), residents said.

A French source confirmed an attack against the embassy and said one guard was seriously wounded and another lightly hurt.

The mission is located in a two-storey villa in the upmarket Gargaresh area.

"We heard a loud blast at 7:00 am. It was a big mistake to site the French embassy in our neighbourhood," said a local resident.

France condemned the"odious" attack.

"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," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement.

The impact of the explosion also severely damaged two villas near the embassy, while windows of a shop 200 metres (yards) away were blown out.

The street in front of the mission was flooded with water, apparently from a pipe ripped by the blast.

There was no immediate information on who carried out the attack or what the motives.

France, under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, led air raids against the forces of then Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 after a rebellion against his regime erupted.

The operation, under a UN resolution aimed at protecting civilians in Libya, helped defeat and topple Qaddafi's regime, and the dictator was killed in October 2011 after an eight-month conflict.

Since Qaddafi's fall, Libya has been plagued by persistent insecurity, especially in the region of Benghazi, which has been hit by bombings and assassinations that has forced many Westerners to leave the eastern city.

In September, an attack on the US consulate killed four Americans,including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The envoy died when the consulate was attacked by an armed mob protesting against a low-budget anti-Islam film produced in the United States, which mocked the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.

The movie, "Innocence of Muslims," had triggered widespread anger and violent protests in several Muslim countries across the world.

The Benghazi attack sparked a ferocious backlash from Republicans during the 2012 US presidential race, who alleged that President Barack Obama's administration sought to cover up details of the incident.

The violence in Libya is often blamed on radical Islamists persecuted under Qaddafi and who now want to settle old scores, while security remains the prerogative of militias in a number of important areas.

Adding to the woes is a regional context marked by the conflict in Mali where the French army intervened at the request of the authorities in Bamako.

Armed jihadist groups hurt by the French intervention in northern Mali had threatened retaliation by attacking French interests.

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