23 Apr 2013

French embassy targeted in Libyan car bomb attack

French President Francois Hollande denounces a car bomb attack on his country’s embassy in Libya as an attack not only on France, but on all countries fighting terrorism.

A car bomb attack hit the French embassy in Libya in the early hours of Tuesday morning (pictures: Reuters)

The car bomb exploded at around 7am local time (6am GMT) outside the French embassy in Tripoli.

Two French guards, as well as a Libyan teenager in a nearby house, were injured in the blast. One of the guards was said to be seriously injured, and the other one more lightly hurt.

This act is targeted, through France, at all countries of the international community involved in the fight against terrorism. Francois Hollande

The explosion, in Tripoli’s upmarket al-Andalus neighbourhood, also started a fire which engulfed some of the embassy’s office. Two cars parked outside the embassy caught fire and two other nearby buildings were also damaged, officials said.

‘France will not bend’

Mr Hollande said in a statement that he “condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attack that struck the embassy in Tripoli”.

“France expects the Libyan authorities to shed the fullest light on this unacceptable act, so that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice,” he said.

“This act is targeted, through France, at all countries of the international community involved in the fight against terrorism.”

Francois Hollande has called the explosion an attack on all country's fighting terrorism (picture: Reuters)

Mr Hollande has sent French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to Tripoli later Tuesday to assess the situation and bring home the two wounded French guards.

Ahead of his flight, Mr Fabius said “this bombing was intended to kill, but France will not bend”.

“In connection with the Libyan authorities, government departments will make every effort to ensure that all light be shed on the circumstances of this heinous act and its perpetrators are quickly identified,” he said.

Libyan Saqr al-Qarifi, whose house is next to the French embassy, said the explosion woke him up around 7am. “I heard a loud boom and immediately after that windows were shattered and parts of my house were damaged,” he said.

Struggling for stability

Libya has struggled to achieve stability since its civil war and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi two years ago. In September the US ambassador and three staff were killed in an attack on the American embassy in the Libyan city Benghazi.

In January this year the Foreign Office advised Britons to leave Benghazi because of a “specific and imminent terrorist threat”. In March three British women were also reported to have been raped by pro-government forces in Libya.

France has also recently been threatened by al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), the north African al-Qaeda branch, for its role in fighting Islamic militants in northern Mali.

Last week AQIM threatened to seek revenge against all countries taking part in the French-led war Malian intervention, warning that no-one who “participated in this ferocious attack” will be safe.

It called on “all Muslims to target France and its interests and subjects inside and outside France until it withdraws the last soldier from the land of the Muslims and lifts its support of rulers of the region”.