Ten People killed as gunmen storm luxury Tripoli hotel

January 28, 2015 1:39 pm
In the latest sign of ’s descent into chaos, gunmen stormed a
luxury hotel used by diplomats and businessmen in the capital on
Tuesday, killing 10 people, including an American, a French citizen and
three people from Eastern Europe.
Two attackers were killed
following an hours-long standoff that included a car bomb that exploded
in the parking lot of the seaside Corinthia Hotel.

Smoke and flames can be seen in this video still, posted by a Libyan
blogger, after gunmen stormed the luxury Cortinthia Hotel in .
Photo / AP

It was unclear if other gunmen were involved in the attack, which also killed five Libyan guards.
In
Twitter posts and a statement on social media, a Tripoli affiliate of
the Islamic State () group was said to be behind the attack, but
there was little evidence to back up the claims in a country that has
been awash in armed extremist groups who would be equally suspect.

The Site intelligence group reported the two dead gunmen
were identified online as sympathizers of Isis and said the militants
said the hotel was targeted because it houses diplomatic missions and
“crusader” security companies.
However, The Associated Press was unable to independently confirm the
claims, which didn’t conform with the group’s earlier postings from
Libya.
Militants claiming the attack on behalf of a group called
the Islamic State of the Tripoli Province posted a brief video showing
burned cars in the hotel’s parking lot and said it was to avenge the
2013 abduction by American commandos of a Libyan al-Qaida operative,
Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Abu Anas al-Libi.
Al-Ruqai
died earlier this month in a New York hospital of complications from
liver surgery while awaiting trial for the 1998 bombings of the US
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Rising militant threat

The
assault highlights the growing threat from militant groups that operate
with near impunity in a country torn between rival governments since
the 2011 toppling and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Since Gadhafi’s ouster, the country has been torn among competing militias and tribes vying for power.
Libya’s post-Gadhafi transition has collapsed, with two rival
governments and parliaments – each backed by different militias –
ruling in the country’s eastern and western regions.
Amid the
bloody political rivalry, multiple armed groups have emerged, including
radical Islamist militias who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic
State, including one based in the eastern city of Derna, a stronghold of
radical groups, as well as regional militias and groups loyal to the
former regime.
Tripoli, which has been controlled by Islamist
militiamen mostly from the western city of Misrata since the summer, has
been hit with a series of car bombs and shootings.
The
internationally recognised government has been forced to relocate to the
country’s east, where a former general has waged an offensive against
Islamist militias, including Ansar al-Shariah, blamed for the 2012
attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi that left the US
ambassador and three other Americans dead.

US security contractor killed

A
senior US State Department official confirmed that a US citizen was
among those killed in Tuesday’s attack, but did not provide further
details.
Cliff Taylor, the chief executive of a Virginia security
company, Crucible LLC, identified the slain American as David Berry, a
contractor with his company.
A French national and three citizens
of former Soviet republics were also among the dead, according to a
spokesman for a Tripoli security agency, Essam al-Naas.
The
Malta-owned Corinthia hotel, among the most luxurious in Tripoli, is
frequented by diplomats and foreign businessmen visiting Libya, and is
also where the United Nations support mission in Libya usually holds its
meetings.
The mission is currently hosting political talks with
rival Libyan groups in Geneva, trying to resolve the country’s political
and security crisis.
The hotel had Italian, British and Turkish
guests but was largely empty at the time of the attack, according to
hotel staff members. There was also a visiting American delegation.
The
militia-backed government in Tripoli said the target was Prime Minister
Omar al-Hassi, who normally resides at the hotel but was not there at
the time of the attack.
Spokesman Amr Baiou told reporters al-Hassi was unharmed.
A security official in Tripoli, Omar al-Khadrawi, said initial investigations pointed to a group of former Gadhafi loyalists.

Conflicting reports

Reports about how the attack unfolded were conflicting and it was not immediately possible to reconcile the different accounts.
Hotel
staffers initially said that five masked gunmen stormed the Corinthia
after security guards at the hotel’s gate tried to stop them, firing
randomly at the staff in the lobby as guests fled out the hotel’s back
doors into the parking lot.
One staffer said a car bomb exploded
in the parking lot after a protection force entered the lobby and opened
fire on the gunmen. Two guards were immediately killed, according to
the staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being
targeted by militants.
The car bomb incinerated at least five cars in the parking lot and damaged windows in the hotel’s facade, he said.
Al-Naas,
the security agency spokesman, said after a standoff of several hours,
the attackers threw a grenade at the security forces on the hotel’s 24th
floor, killing themselves and a security guard.
Ten people were also wounded in the attack, including security guards and guests.
“The operation is over,” al-Naas said, but added that the streets around the Corinthia remained closed.
He
said an investigation was underway and the car used by the gunmen is
believed to be the same one used in an assault on the Algerian embassy
10 days ago that wounded three guards.
The UN Security Council
condemned the attack “in the strongest terms” and urged all countries to
help bring “the perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of
these reprehensible acts of to justice”.
In a statement
approved by all 15 members, the council also urged all parties in Libya
“to engage constructively” with UN envoy Bernardino Leon and resume “an
inclusive political process aimed at addressing the political and
security challenges” facing Libya.
The Corinthia previously came
under attack in 2013 when gunmen abducted then prime minister Ali
Zeidan, who was living there. He was released several hours later.

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