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Car bomb explodes outside Swedish, Finnish consulates in Benghazi

Civilians gather at the site where a car bomb exploded outside a building housing the Swedish and Finnish consulates in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
(Mohammed el-Shaiky / Associated Press)

TRIPOLI, Libya — A car bomb exploded outside a building housing the Swedish and Finnish consulates in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Friday, badly damaging it but causing no casualties, Libyan and Swedish officials said.

The blast reflected the lack of security in the North African nation, where multiple armed militias run rampant — many of them dominated by Islamic militants — and the central government is too weak to rein them in.

The violence is particularly sharp in Benghazi, the country’s second largest city, which has seen frequent killings of Libyan security officials and a string of attacks on diplomatic facilities, most notably the Sept. 11, 2012, storming of a U.S. diplomatic post that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

The latest attack comes in the wake of a U.S. special forces raid last weekend that snatched an Al Qaeda suspect from the streets of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, spiriting him off to custody in a U.S. warship. Many militiamen and Islamic militants were angered by the raid, blaming the Libyan government — and on Thursday, gunmen briefly kidnapped the country’s prime minister.

Some militiamen have hinted at retaliation against Americans — or other foreigners — but there was no immediate sign Friday’s bombing was linked to the raid.

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The Swedish and Finnish consulates are among the few foreign diplomatic posts still operating in Benghazi.

A Libyan security official said the car bomb was detonated by remote control on Friday in an upscale neighborhood of Benghazi. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The morning blast heavily damaged the windows and facade of the building, Ursula Ahlen of the Swedish Foreign Ministry in Stockholm said. The facility was closed for business since Friday is a weekend day in Libya.

“All the doors were ripped up by the blast. When I walked out to the staircase, it had been blackened by soot,” the former honorary consul, Anders Nilsson — who still lives at the site with his sister, the current honorary consul, told Swedish broadcaster SVT by telephone from Benghazi.

Nilsson said he had just returned from morning shopping and was in the kitchen when the blast went off. He said eight or nine people were in the building at the time.

Finland’s honorary consul was also in the building at the time but was not hurt, the Foreign Ministry in Helsinki said.

The consulates perform diplomatic functions like issuing visas and citizen services, but they are headed by “honorary consuls” — nationals who were already residing in the city and were named by their home governments to represent the nations, as opposed to members of the diplomatic corps assigned there.

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Twitter: @alexzavis

alexandra.zavis@latimes.com


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