Car bomb kills two UN personnel in Benghazi

Updated August 11, 2019

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A bomb-laden vehicle exploded on Saturday outside a shopping mall in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, killing at least two UN security staff, health officials said. — Reuters/File
A bomb-laden vehicle exploded on Saturday outside a shopping mall in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, killing at least two UN security staff, health officials said. — Reuters/File

BENGHZI: A bomb-laden vehicle exploded on Saturday outside a shopping mall in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, killing at least two UN security staff, health officials said. The attack came even as the country’s warring sides said they accepted a ceasefire proposed by the UN aimed at halting combat in the capital Tripoli during an upcoming Eid holiday.

The officials said the blast took place outside Arkan Mall in the Hawari neighbourhood, where people were gathering for shopping a day before the Eidul Azha holiday begins. The Benghazi municipal council said the attack targeted a convoy for the UN Support Mission in Libya.

The site of the attack is close to offices of the UN support mission in Libya. The officials said the two dead hailed from Libya and Fuji. The blast also wounded nine people, including a 3-year-old child and a UN staff member from Jamaica, the health officials said.

Footage circulated online shows what appears to be burnt UN-owned vehicles, as thick smoke bellows into the sky.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief reporters. A spokeswoman for the UN mission in Libya did not answer phone calls seeking comment. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came just a month after two bomb-laden vehicles went off in Benghazi, the stronghold for the self-styled Libyan National Army. The July attack killed at least four people and wounded 33 others.

The warring sides, meanwhile, said they accepted a multi-day truce for the Eid holiday, which begins Sunday.

Earlier this week, the UN envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame urged the LNA and the UN-supported government to declare a ceasefire for the holiday.

The Tripoli-based government on Friday responded positively to the proposal, while LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mosmari told a news conference in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday that they would abide by the ceasefire from Saturday to Monday.

If it takes place, the ceasefire would be the first since the LNA, led by military commander Khalifa Hifter, launched a surprise military offensive on April 4 aimed at capturing Tripoli, ushering in fierce battles with militias loosely allied with a UN-supported but weak administration in the capital.

The battle for Tripoli has killed over 1,100 people, mostly combatants, and has displaced more than 100,000 civilians.

Thousands of African migrants captured by Libyan for­ces supported by the European Union are trapped in detention centres near the front lines. An air strike on one facility early last month killed more than 50 people, mainly mig­rants held in a hangar that collapsed on top of them.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2019