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Islamic State Loyalists Claim Responsibility for Bombings That Killed Dozens in Libya

No group has yet claimed responsibility for today’s attacks in Al Qubbah — but the quickly deteriorating security situation has the country on high alert.

by Alice Speri
Feb 20 2015, 5:25pm

Photo via Mandate or Barqah

At least 25 people were killed and several more were injured in three simultaneous bombings in the eastern Libya town of Al Qubbah on Friday — for which loyalists to the Syria and Iraq-based Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility.

The bombings reportedly targeted the local police headquarters, a gas station, and the home of Aguila Saleh Issa, the speaker of Libya's internationally recognized parliament, who was not at home at the time.

Medics said most of the victims were at the gas station, where people formed long lines to refuel. Shortages of gas and other basic necessities are gripping the region.

Al Qubbah is under the control of Khalifa Haftar, a former general under the rule of late dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who is now backed by Libya's internationally recognized parliament. That parliament has been headquartered in Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, since a coalition of Islamist militias gained control of the capital of Tripoli last summer, forming a parallel government.

Al Qubba is 18 miles west of Derna, a port city that some have dubbed "Libya's Raqqa" for the strong presence of militas there that have pledged allegiance to IS.

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Earlier this month, the Egyptian air force carried out airstrikes over IS targets in Derna in retaliation for the kidnapping and execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic workers.

In a statement released on an online forum, the "Mandate or Barqah," a group affiliated to the IS said today's attacks were in "revenge" for those attacks on Derna. The group also accused Libya's internationally recognized government of "conspiring" in the airstrikes. The group also released photos of men it claimed were the perpetrators of today's bombings.

At least three militant groups in Libya have recently declared allegiance to IS — plunging the divided country into further instability. As the country's two main factions — the internationally recognized government and the Islamist coalition in Tripoli — have faced off, so have dozens of other militias and brigades that have fragmented the country since the killing of Qaddafi in 2011.

IS has taken advantage of that power vacuum, analysts told VICE News, and the quickly deteriorating security situation has the country on high alert.

"The situation is developing fast, the basic functions of services are at a struggle," Osama Buera, a spokesman for the rebel group Cyrenaica Political Bureau in eastern Libya told VICE News hours before the bombings.

"The country is about to divide," he added. "It will be difficult for the international community to determine which groups to ally with in the fight against IS in the current circumstances and the very fragile national unity."

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Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi