Bomb Targets US Embassy Office in Libya

Posted June 6th, 2012 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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A bomb exploded outside the U.S. mission in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, causing no injuries but heightening concerns about instability in the country as it plans for historic elections.

A U.S. official in Libya said the attack late Tuesday damaged the front gate of the mission. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told VOA Wednesday that the main building was not affected.

The explosion in Benghazi comes two weeks before Libya is scheduled to hold its first free national elections since former leader Moammar Gadhafi, who seized power in a 1969 coup, was killed last year amid a popular uprising.

Tensions are rising ahead of the June 19 voting for a 200-member assembly that will write a new constitution and form a government. Amid violence between tribal factions and the interim government, there have been reports that elections could be delayed.

The attack near the U.S. diplomatic office came a day after Libya's main airport in Tripoli reopened following the seizure of the facility by disgruntled militiamen.

The bombing also happened hours after U.S. officials said a drone strike in northwestern Pakistan killed al-Qaida's second in command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, who is a Libyan national. Reuters quotes an American official saying the U.S. asked the Libyan government to increase its security around U.S. facilities.

The head of the Austrian embassy's commercial section, David Bachmann, told VOA that foreigners in Libya have to learn how to “cope” with what he calls an escalating “unquiet” situation.

“In Benghazi, it's like every second night, every other night, there's something going on there. So you start losing overview with all the things going on like the Tripoli airport, Benghazi, … it's simply sometimes too much.”

But Bachmann says members of the business community have tight security in place in Tripoli and won't “change their behavior” due to bombs in Benghazi.

The Libyan government said it retook control of the airport late Monday, hours after militiamen from a central region stormed the runway to protest the disappearance of their leader.

Pro-government militias initially responded to the airport seizure, disarming some of the assailants and forcing others to flee before handing control of the site to state security forces.

The standoff ended when the leader was reportedly freed.

Western nations are counting on Libyan elections to forge democracy in Libya.

A U.S. official said the American administration “deplores the attack” outside the diplomatic office in Benghazi and will continue to support democracy in Libya. He said the U.S. has a “deep relationship” with the Libyan people, adding that this attack “is not what most Libyans support.”