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Car bomb attack in Benghazi on first anniversary of assault on US Embassy

BENGHAZI // A car bomb damaged a Libyan foreign ministry building in Benghazi yesterday, the first anniversary of the attack on the US consulate in the city that left four Americans dead.

Two years after the revolt that toppled Muammar Qaddafi, Libya is riven along regional and tribal lines and dogged by armed violence, leaving the central government struggling to curb the clout of rival militias and militant Islamists.

Local security officials said a car packed with explosives had been left beside the ministry building where it detonated at dawn, badly damaging it and several other buildings in the centre of Benghazi. There were no reports of any casualties.

A few hours before the blast, security forces had defused a large bomb near the foreign ministry headquarters in the Zawyat Al Dahmani district in the east of the capital Tripoli.

"Libyans cannot ignore the timing of this explosion," said the prime minister, Ali Zeidan. "It's a clear message by the forces of terror that they do not want the state or the army to stand on its feet."

Mr Zeidan did not directly blame any group for the attack, but alluded to militant Islamists blamed for a spate of recent car bombs targeting security and army officers.

As well as militia violence, Mr Zeidan's central government has also struggled to end strikes by oil workers and armed guards at oil installations that have paralysed the North African state's production of crude.

A year ago, four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya, were killed in an attack on the country's consulate in Benghazi.

Washington initially said the assault had grown out of anti-western protests, but it later turned out militant Islamists were the perpetrators marking the 11th anniversary of Al Qaeda's September 11 attacks on the United States.

The acting interior minister, Al Sadeeq Abdul Karim, said the army and police were stepping up measures to stem the deterioration of security in Benghazi and other parts of the vast country.

There has been a spike in car bombings and assassinations of army and security officers, many of whom served in Gaddafi's security services and joined successors formed after the 2011 civil war.

Analysts said rebels and militants seeking revenge against former security officers who served under Gaddafi, and frustrated with the limited progress in bringing his ex-henchmen to justice, have sought to take the law into their hands.

* Reuters

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