A group of militants including at least two suicide bombers stormed the head offices of Libya’s electoral commission in Tripoli on Wednesday, killing at least seven people and setting fire to the building, a spokesman said. Security forces engaged in a gun battle with the assailants for control of the building, said spokesman Khaled Omar. The victims included three employees of the commission and four members of local security forces, he said.
“I saw two suicide bombers myself… they were shouting Allahu Akbar (God is greatest),” he said, adding that he had seen bombers’ body parts strewn on the ground. “A suicide bomber blew up himself inside the commission and the others set a part of the building on fire.”
“We (the staff) are out of the building now while the security people deal with the incident.” Pictures posted on social media showed thick black smoke billowing from the commission’s offices, in the Ghout al-Shaal district west of central Tripoli.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. The electoral commission has been registering voters ahead of new elections that the United Nations says it hopes can be held in Libya before the end of the year. Libya has been in a state of turmoil since a 2011 civil war resulted in the overthrow of longstanding ruler Muammar Gaddafi by rebel fighters backed by NATO air strikes.
Islamist militants including some with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda have a presence in Libya. Libyan and Western officials say they are concentrated in remote desert areas, but also have sleeper cells in coastal cities.