A pair of successive car bombs detonated outside a mosque in Benghazi on Tuesday night, killing dozens of worshipers and security personnel who had responded to the scene, according to Libyan officials.
The first blast struck a mosque in the central Al Salmani district as worshipers were leaving evening prayers. About 15 minutes later, after security and emergency medical officials had arrived on scene, a second, more powerful bomb exploded in a Mercedes parked across the street, reports Reuters.
The one-two combination — a common tactic used by militants across the greater Middle East — killed at least 33 people and wounded more than 100 others, reports The Independent, citing Libyan security officials. It was the deadliest terror attack in Benghazi in the last two years and one of the worst since the NATO-led overthrow of former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
The eastern port city of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest, was largely ruined in three years of war between Libyan National Army forces and several Islamist militant groups, including a local Islamic State affiliate. The LNA under the command of Khalifa Haftar in 2017 managed to prevail over its opponents in Benghazi, ushering in a period of relative calm.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s bombings, but the attacks call in to question Haftar’s claims that he has suppressed militants operating in Benghazi.
Six years after a U.S.-led NATO coalition orchestrated Qaddafi’s ouster, Libya is still effectively divided in two, with a Benghazi-based eastern government denying the legitimacy of Fayez al-Sarraj, the country’s U.N.-installed prime minister in Tripoli.
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