Suicide bomb attack kills at least 15 in Libya’s Benghazi

Libya's Benghazi

Libya’s Benghazi

“There were 15 martyrs and more than 30 wounded in the suicide bombing at Al-Guwarsha” in western Benghazi, the military official said.

The blast occurred in a residential area of the Guwarsha district, the scene of recent fighting between security forces loyal to Libya’s eastern government and an alliance of Islamists and others.

The alliance, the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, claimed responsibility for the blast, according to a statement posted on media sites linked to the group. Benghazi has been plagued by violence since eastern commander Khalifa Haftar launched a campaign against the Islamists’ Shura Council two years ago. His forces have advanced in several areas in recent months, but have not gained full control of the city.

The attack targeted a gathering of the special forces unit of Haftar’s fighters, known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), spokesman Fadel al-Hassi said. A Reuters witness said the powerful explosion reduced a three-story building to rubble.

Haftar’s forces are allied to a government that has been based in eastern Libya since 2014, when armed groups set up a rival administration in the capital, Tripoli.

The attacks comes a day after US warplanes carried out their first air strikes on Islamic State group positions in the Libyan city of Sirte at the request of Libya’s internationally recognised authorities, the Government of National Accord based in Tripoli. The strikes targeted an Islamic State group tank and two vehicles that posed a threat to government forces.

The GNA was the result of a UN-brokered power-sharing agreement between the country’s rival eastern and western factions back in December, but it has yet to be endorsed by either Haftar or the elected parliament that is based in the country’s far east.