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 8:25 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Action needs to be taken immediately before affected states potentially collapse, says campaigner Bob Geldof.
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
updated 6:33 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
updated 8:18 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
updated 7:18 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Australian PM Tony Abbott vows to "shirt-front" Russia's Putin over the MH17 disaster.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Serbia and Albania try to play but the major game is called off after a drone flying a political flag enters the stadium.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
George Clooney's new wife, is now Amal Clooney, raising the issue of married names.
updated 1:57 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
The mysterious unmanned X-37B space plane returns to Earth after more than two years in space. But the U.S. Air force isn't saying much.
updated 12:55 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Public health experts are asking whether the CDC is getting the wrong message out.
updated 11:41 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
It's no longer necessary to launch your startup in Silicon Valley -- thanks to the internet, you can do it anywhere.
updated 5:00 AM EDT, Wed October 8, 2014
From a "democracy wall" to a towering "Umbrella man" statue, see the best art from the massive protests in Hong Kong.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT