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Deadly Benghazi blast appears to be accidental, Libyan official says

By Salma Abdelaziz and Arwa Damon, CNN
updated 7:16 PM EDT, Thu May 16, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Libyan deputy prime minister says the blast seems like it wasn't deliberate
  • He says the explosives were like those used by fishermen for dynamite fishing
  • The potent blast near a Benghazi hospital left at least 3 people dead
  • Police and troops have since become more visible on Benghazi streets

(CNN) -- A potent, bloody blast this week near a Benghazi hospital is not believed to have been set off by terrorists, but rather was more likely an accident, a Libyan official said Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Barassi told CNN that Monday's explosion near Al Jalaa hospital seems to be an accidental detonation, not a deliberate attack.

Benghazi Security Directorate spokesman Tareq Khraz had told state TV Libya Al Ahrar that the powerful explosion in the northeastern Libyan city left "children with shredded bodies and wounds toe to head," describing the scene as "horrific."

Khraz said at least 13 people died and more than 40 were wounded. But the hospital director, speaking on Ahrar TV, gave a lower toll -- three dead and 15 wounded -- the same number of fatalities that Interior Minister Ashur Shuail detailed Thursday.

According to al-Barassi, the horror originated from a vehicle that was carrying the type of explosives used by fishermen for so-called dynamite fishing.

The car was moving when it exploded, Shuail said.

The bodies of two of the three killed -- one of whom was 16-years-old -- were shredded, the minister added. Additionally, eight cars were destroyed and several nearby buildings were damaged, Khraz said.

The two men believed to be in the vehicle have not yet been identified.

Over the past 18 months, Benghazi, the birthplace of Libya's revolution that toppled longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi, has been the scene of attacks that mainly targeted security forces, Western diplomats and international organizations.

Gunmen attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in the city on September 11, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. The Obama administration's handling of that incident has come under much criticism and scrutiny.

Doomed Libya ambassador: 'We're under attack'

Most of the attacks in Benghazi have been blamed on extremist Islamist groups that have established a foothold in eastern Libya, according to Western intelligence officials who have spoken to CNN.

After Monday's explosion, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan noted security forces have not been able to take strict measures following a string of attacks.

Nonetheless, police and Army soldiers have become more visible on the streets of Benghazi over the past few days. On Thursday, troops raided the city's black market -- which sells alcohol, drugs and weapons, among other items -- and cleared it out.

CNN's Greg Botelho and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

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