Tripoli force suspects rival eastern force backers in bomb near Italian embassy

The remains of a car are seen at the scene where a car bomb exploded late on Saturday close to the recently re-opened Italian embassy in Tripoli.

A counter-terrorism unit in the Libyan capital Tripoli said it suspected a car bomb that went off on Saturday near the Italian embassy was planted by backers of a rival force in the divided country’s east.

The blast occurred in central Tripoli about 350 meters from the recently reopened embassy. The bodies of two men were recovered from the wreckage of the car.

“This terrorist act is a result of political conflict between east and west,” the city’s Special Deterrence Force (Rada) said in a statement late on Wednesday that signaled it held the Libyan National Army (LNA) responsible.

The dead men had been trying to target the embassy, but had been prevented from parking their car near the compound’s walls, Rada said.

Eastern officials did not respond to the comments.

Both Libya and Tripoli itself are home to myriad armed groups with shifting and conflicting loyalties that have sought to fill the power vacuum created when long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in 2011.

In 2014, fighting between armed alliances backing opposing political factions resulted in rival governments being set up in the capital and the east.

Since March last year a third, U.N.-backed government has been trying to establish itself in Tripoli, but it has been unable to win support from groups in the east aligned with the government there and the LNA.

The LNA has made significant gains over the past year in its “Operation Dignity” campaign against Islamist-led opponents in the eastern city of Benghazi, and has pushed west to control key oil facilities. It has said it is preparing to “liberate” Tripoli.


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