A bomb attack on a police training centre in Libya’s western city of Zliten has killed and wounded dozens of people, local media reports said Thursday. A report from the LANA national news agency under the control of Libya’s internationally recognised government said at least 15 people had been killed and 30 wounded in what it said was a suicide bombing.
A rival news agency loyal to authorities in Tripoli, who are in control of Zliten, said at least 50 people had been killed and 127 wounded, quoting a doctor at a Zliten hospital It said the blast was caused by a truck bombing and had hit the centre of Zliten, a city on Libya’s northwestern coast.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Libya has been beset by chaos since the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi and the Islamic State group has been gaining increasing influence.
The UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, said on Twitter that the blast was a suicide attack. “I condemn in the strongest terms today’s deadly suicide attack in Zliten, call on all Libyans to urgently unite in fight against terrorism,” he wrote.
Libya has had rival administrations since August 2014, when an Islamist-backed militia alliance overran Tripoli, forcing the government to take refuge in the east. The United Nations is pressing both sides to accept a power-sharing deal.
On December 17, under UN guidance, envoys from both sides and a number of independent political figures signed a deal for a unity government, but the agreement has yet to be implemented. World powers fear Libya could descend further into chaos and become a stronghold of IS on Europe’s doorstep.
The group claimed a string of atrocities in Libya last year, including the January attack on a luxury hotel in Tripoli known for hosting foreign diplomats and Libyan officials, which killed nine people. A month later it released a video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, all but one of them Egyptians, that the jihadists said they captured in Libya in January.
In a report to the UN Security Council in November, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that IS had been responsible for at least 27 car and suicide bombings in Libya in 2015. IS has in recent days launched a series of attacks on oil facilities in eastern Libya, pushing east from the group’s coastal stronghold of Sirte.
Officials have warned of crippling consequences for the country if the jihadists manage to seize control of Libya’s oil resources. Oil is Libya’s main natural resource, and the country sits on reserves estimated at 48 billion barrels, the largest in Africa.
Feature image source: Reuters