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Two Embassies in Libya Attacked, the Islamic State Claims Responsibility

On the eve of a crucial summit that hopes to reconcile Libya's warring factions, the Islamic State's branch in the country says it has attacked the South Korean and Moroccan diplomatic missions in Tripoli.
April 13, 2015, 6:35am
Image via Reuters

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack at the Moroccan embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, early on Monday morning, as well as a shooting outside South Korea's embassy hours earlier.

Two people were killed and another injured on Sunday in a drive-by shooting on a security post at the South Korean diplomatic mission. An explosive device was left in a bag at the gates of the Moroccan embassy — which is currently closed — and damaged vehicles nearby, though no injuries have been reported.

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The attacks come on the eve of a decisive summit aimed at reconciling the two major factions which claim the right to govern the country. As they fight over who will rule the country, the Islamic State (IS) in Libya continues to assert itself, and remains the strongest branch of the organization outside of Syria and Iraq.

"The Soldiers of the Caliphate in the city of Tripoli killed two of the guards at the South Korean embassy," announced a Twitter account linked to IS in Libya, according to a translation published by SITE Intel Group. The group also said it was behind the second attack.

— SITE Intel Group (@siteintelgroup)April 13, 2015

Moroccan Embassy in Tripoli a few minutes ago. — Adam (@4Adam)April 12, 2015

In August, the internationally recognized Libyan government was ousted from Tripoli, and the city fell under control of an alliance, known as Libya Dawn, made up of opposing tribal leaders and Islamist militias.The group has set up its own parliament and government, claiming the right to control the country.

After losing Tripoli, the internationally recognized government fled to the eastern city of Badya — and the parliament to Tobruk around 125 miles away— with the support of the national army. The country has been divided between the two groups ever since.

The summit is scheduled for Monday in Algiers, where leaders and activists from both sides will be urged by United Nations negotiators to support a deal to bring together Libya Dawn and Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni to form a unity government.

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The Islamic State attacks came just a few hours after Western governments called for a ceasefire between Libya Dawn and the official government ahead of the talks.

Related: Free flights save Egyptians in Libya from violence and provide cheap vacations. Read more here.

"We call for the immediate cessation of airstrikes and ground offensives. Such provocations undermine the UN talks and threaten chances for reconciliation," read a joint statement issued by United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The statement also said that "extremists use the lack of order to their advantage, causing further suffering and bloodshed both inside and outside Libya."

Fighting has continued up until the summit, and could derail attempts at reconciliation. On Saturday, 10 died and 55 were injured during fighting between the national army and pro-Libya Dawn fighters in the city of Benghazi, according to reports.

Libya has been essentially ungovernable since Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was defeated in a civil war in 2011. During the power vacuum, militias and terror groups have emerged.

In October last year, an Islamist militia controlling the eastern city of Derna, called Majlis Shura Shabab al-Islam, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. In November, IS leader and self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi officially accepted the group. This made Derna the first city outside of Iraq and Syria to be under Islamic State control.

Since then militants in Libya connected to IS have committed several of the bloody public executions that have become typical of the movement, including beheading 21 Coptic Christians in February.

Follow Scott Mitchell on Twitter: @s_mitchell