Skip to main content

Car bomb explodes outside French embassy in Tripoli; 2 guards, girl injured

From Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
updated 4:01 PM EDT, Tue April 23, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Libyan deputy prime minister: The French ambassador said he will not leave Tripoli
  • Two French security guards and a 13-year-old girl are injured
  • The car bomb destroys the front wall of the embassy and shatters windows nearby
  • The attack comes 7 months after four Americans were killed at a consulate in Benghazi

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- A car bomb exploded just outside the French Embassy in Tripoli early Tuesday morning, injuring two French security guards and a Libyan girl, officials said.

The blast was so powerful it blew the front wall off the embassy. Homes can cars adjacent to the embassy sustained heavy damage, and the windows of nearby buildings in this upscale, largely residential neighborhood were also blown out.

During a visit to the area, Deputy Prime Minister Awad Barasi said a 13-year-old girl in a nearby house was injured in the attack and will be taken to Tunisia for treatment.

Barasi, who condemned the attack, said he had spoken with the French ambassador to Libya, who assured him he will not leave Tripoli.

The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the attack.

"In conjunction with the Libyan authorities, our government departments will make every effort to ensure that all light be shed on the circumstances of this heinous act and its perpetrators quickly identified," the foreign ministry said.

Barasi told CNN it was too early to "jump into conclusions" about who might have carried out the attack. A criminal investigation is under way to try to determine who was behind the attack and why.

At least four French investigators were at the scene with what appeared to be forensic equipment gathering evidence. They seemed to be leading the investigation and working with Libyan officials from the Criminal Investigations Division.

Libya's Interior Minister Ashour Shuail, who visited the site along with the country's justice minister, said one of the two French security guards had undergone a surgery in Tripoli and was now in stable condition.

He would not say who the government believes is behind the attack and said the investigation would reveal that. The minister said security will be increased around diplomatic missions in the capital.

Responding to questions about lax security, Shuail said no country is immune to this sort of security breach, not even the United States, referencing last week's Boston Marathon bombings.

Residents in the area complained about lax security at the French Embassy.

While there has been no claim of responsibility, Libyans at the scene blamed extremist groups.

"We have to admit they exist here in Libya," said Mustafa, who was in a nearby house. "They are small groups, no one likes them or supports them."

Western intelligence officials have said militants linked to al Qaeda had training camps in Libya.

After the French military intervention in Mali in January, there were fears militants could strike French interests in the region, including Libya, which has been struggling to impose security across the country since the 2011 revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

At a news conference, Shuail said he could not link the attack to Mali.

He said Libya has to first deal with the widespread weapons in the country.

Rami El Obeidi, former intelligence chief during the Libyan revolution, blamed the attack on al Qaeda-linked groups.

"Without a doubt, extremist Jihadi movements aligned to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (are responsible). Same alliance that's responsible for the attacks on the British, American, and Italian missions in Benghazi, their proven involvement in the Algeria attack, and the logistical support that was given to AQIM elements in Mali," El Obeidi said.

The French Embassy bombing follows a series of attacks last year that targeted foreign diplomatic missions and the International Committee of the Red Cross in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The attacks are believed to be the work of Islamist extremist groups with ties to al Qaeda.

Last September, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a militant attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

According to El Obeidi, Tuesday's early morning blast was a message to the French government about the capabilities of these groups, rather than a blast that aimed to kill.

Residents and embassy staff said the bomb detonated an hour before the area is busy with dozens of Libyans who line up daily to apply for visas.

"This was a political message because the attack was not designed to kill anyone, especially not Libyans, as this would have caused fractures within the extremist movements currently operating inside Libya" El Obeidi added.

CNN's Saad Abedine contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT