Car Bomb Targets French Embassy in Tripoli

The French Embassy in Libya was attacked and two embassy guards injured.
The French Embassy in Libya was attacked and two embassy guards injured.

TRIPOLI, Libya — A car bomb targeted the French Embassy in the Libyan capital Tuesday, wounding two French guards and a Libyan teenager and underscoring the central government’s inability to stop the oil-rich North African nation’s slide toward deepening lawlessness.

There have been several attacks on diplomatic missions in Benghazi, but Tuesday’s was the first in Tripoli since the civil war ended with Moammar Gadhafi’s death. On Sept. 11, four Americans — including the U.S. Ambassador in Libya Chris Stevens — were killed when militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in the eastern city.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack on the French Embassy in Tripoli, but many blamed either Islamic extremists avenging France’s military intervention in Mali or militias seeking to send a message that they’re winning the struggle for control and that cracking down on them only backfires.

French President Francois Hollande denounced the attack as an assault not only on France but all countries engaged in the fight against terrorism.

“France expects the Libyan authorities to shed the fullest light on this unacceptable act, so that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice,” Hollande said in a statement from Paris.

Two years after the country’s civil war, Libya is struggling to maintain security, build a unified army and rein in militias, which include rebels who fought to oust Gadhafi in 2011 and have refused to lay down their arms.

Prime Minister Ali Zidan and his defense and interior ministers have been increasingly cracking down on some militias in the capital. Zidan also has reached out to France and other countries for training and technical aid in building the country’s security forces from scratch.

On the one hand, the Libyan government heavily depends on security provided by commanders of powerful militias, with top Libyan leaders dubbing some “legitimate” forces while others like Ansar al-Shariah are labeled as outlaws.

However, both categories of militias often act with impunity, running their own prison cells, making arrests and taking confessions in total absence of state control and oversight. They at the same time enjoy steady and lavish salaries and rewards.

“The Number One party benefiting from these attacks is the militias and the extremists. Whenever we take a step forward, an attack by these groups drags us back,” said lawmaker Tawfiq Breik, from the liberal-leaning National Forces Alliance bloc in parliament.

“The message to the outside world is that Libya is slipping into terrorism. The goal is to empty the capital of foreign and diplomatic missions like Benghazi. The big loser is the Libya people, if no decisive measures are taken.”

Libyans have been staging protests and sit-ins demanding that authorities label all militias illegal. The protesters want militia commanders and their fighters to integrate into the Libyan army as individuals. If they integrate into the army as groups, they say the fighters will maintain their loyalty to their militia commanders.

The assault will increase pressure already mounting on the country’s top army chief Maj. Gen. Youssef al-Mangoush who is blamed for Libya’s failure to take any concrete steps to build its army, allowing the militias to expand.

France is a major ally of the Libyan government and the assault on the embassy in Tripoli was seen to many Libyans as equal in its impact as the killing of Stevens, who aided Libyans during the war.

French officials, meanwhile, have expressed concerns about the possibility of greater instability in Libya, where they believe at least some rebel fighters from Mali fled following France’s military onslaught to dislodge al-Qaida-linked militants who controlled the vast north of the West African country for months.

Last week, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, threatened to seek revenge against all countries taking part in the war in Mali, warning that no one who “participated in this ferocious attack” will be safe. It called on “all Muslims to target France and its interests and subjects inside and outside France until it withdraws the last soldier from the land of the Muslims and lifts its support of rulers of the region.” That threat came as part of a question and answer session on AQIM’s new Twitter account.

Several diplomats, relief agencies and churches have come under attack and scores of Libyan security officials have been assassinated in the post-Gadhafi turmoil. In most cases, the government fails to nail down culprits or make arrests, either because of fear of counterattacks or the lack of capabilities to carry out a proper investigation.

The lawlessness has prompted the U.S., Britain and other Western countries to close their missions in Benghazi and call on their nationals to evacuate the city.

In the latest attack, the explosives-laden car was detonated just outside the embassy building in Tripoli’s upscale al-Andalus neighborhood early in the morning, before any of the embassy staff had arrived inside the diplomatic mission, two Libyan security officials said.

The strong explosion wounded two French guards and set a fire at the embassy entrance that engulfed some of the offices inside, the officials said. A Libyan girl, who was having breakfast in a nearby house, was also hurt from the blast, Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Barassi said on his official Facebook page.

Two cars parked outside the embassy caught fire and two other nearby buildings were also damaged, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Firefighters rushed to the scene of the attack as smoke billowed into the sky. Video from the scene showed charred walls on surrounding houses.

The officials said the motives for the attack were not immediately clear. The Libyan government condemned the attack and said in a statement posted on its official website that it “rejects such actions, which are directly targeting Libya’s security and stability.”

At Hollande’s request, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was to travel to Tripoli later Tuesday to assess the situation and bring home the two wounded French guards.

Ahead of his flight, Fabius said “this bombing was intended to kill, but France will not bend.” He added that France was reinforcing security throughout the Mideast and the Sahel region of Africa.

French institutions in Tripoli, including schools and cultural centers, were ordered to immediately suspend their activities.

France, along with Britain, took a leading role in the NATO-led air campaign against Gadhafi’s forces.

Hollande’s predecessor, President Nicolas Sarkozy, was hailed by many in Libya for France’s role, and Paris has sought to maintain close economic and political contacts with the new leadership in Tripoli.

The attack site was later cordoned off, with heavy national guard and army units with armored vehicles surrounding the area. Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Barassi and Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz visited the site.

Libyan Saqr al-Qarifi, whose house is adjacent to the French Embassy, said the explosion woke him up around 7 a.m.

“I heard a loud boom and immediately after that, windows were shattered and parts of my house were damaged,” he said.

US Embassy in Kabul Attacked on Christmas.

The US Embassy in Afghanistan was attacked on Christmas day.
The US Embassy in Afghanistan was attacked on Christmas day.

A Taliban attack Christmas Day struck the United States Embassy in Kabul early Wednesday morning, forcing embassy workers and American diplomats to underground bunkers to shield themselves from the blast. The pair of rockets that were fired at the embassy were accompanied by two other rockets that hit other parts of Kabul. No casualties were reported, but three Afghan police officers were wounded when they attempted to defuse one of the rockets after it failed to detonate on impact.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, quickly made a statement on behalf of the group, saying that the Taliban attack was coordinated against the U.S. embassy. The Taliban, on Mujahid’s Twitter feed, claimed that the four rockets fired at various parts of the city “inflicted heavy casualties.” Official reports claim otherwise, with no deaths and only a few wounded.

Shortly afterwards Mujahid retracted his statement, saying “The magnitude of the (Taliban) attack and the scope of the losses have yet to be determined,” a serious contrast between his confident statement hours earlier.

While at first glance it seems as though the Taliban attack on Christmas Day holds some sort of significance, observers say that the holiday is hardly recognized in Afghanistan, where there are little to no Christians. Often the Taliban use prominent Islamic holidays to set off large scale attacks to grab headlines across the Middle East.

Officials are looking now to assess damage to the Embassy, and it is unclear whether or not there is a breach in any of the fortified walls. Embassy workers were cleared to leave their bunkers only two hours after the early morning attack to return to their stations.

Rocket attacks in Afghanistan have been relatively rare in recent years, and often they are random and misguided. Such an attack aimed at the presidential palace in 2009 was meant to disrupt the presidential election held in Afghanistan. Instead, the rockets landed in the “general vicinity” of the presidential palace, causing little damage or harm.

“Sneak” bombs have usually been the Taliban’s M.O., inflicting more damage and causing bodily harm. Such an attack on Wednesday targeted a group of police officers in Pul-i-Alam, the capital of Logar Province, south of Kabul. Six policemen were killed in the attack, the first attack in the area in a month and a half.

This attack follows the recent death of a prominent Taliban leader in Kandahar province by the Afghan National Army. The senior Taliban leader, Mullah Noor Mohammad, was said to be the target of an ambush by Afghan forces.

In the ambush Afghan forces were able to seize valuable information from the compound where Mohammad has been hiding out, as well as ammunition, weapons, and communication devices.

Recent in-fighting in the Taliban over leadership has also marred the worldwide terrorist organization. Following a drone strike that killed Hakimullah Meshud, a beloved figure in the Taliban, talks have been growing between rivaling factions for control over the group.

The Christmas Day Taliban attack on the Embassy may have gone without any casualties or serious damage, but officials are saying security will be increased in light of the events.

By John Amaruso Sources: New York Times Indian Express Khaama


Defense Ministry Building in South Sudan Attacked.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir said on Monday an attempted coup by armed groups has been “defeated.”

Armed groups in South Sudan attacked the defense ministry building in Juba on Monday, an attack which was contained by security forces.

Sporadic fire continued in Juba, as security forces dealt with the unrest.

“This was an attempted coup,” Kiir told reporters.

Kiir also said in the “government is in full control of the security situation in Juba. The attackers fled and your forces are pursuing them.”

Overnight there were reports of heavy gunfire in the capital, embassies and witnesses said, saying the fighting appeared to have broken out in a barracks close to the city center.

Statements from the U.S. and British embassies in Juba urged their nationals to avoid unnecessary movements. The U.S. embassy said there were “reports from multiple reliable sources of ongoing security incidents and sporadic gunfire in multiple locations across Juba.”

The attack was described as a failed “coup attempt” by Al Arabiya’s correspondent.

The U.N. envoy for South Sudan called on Monday for an end to the fighting and said she was in touch with the country’s leaders.
“I urge all parties in the fighting to cease hostilities immediately and exercise restraint,” U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General Hilde Johnson said in a statement carried by Reuters news agency.
“I have been in touch regularly with the key leaders… to call for calm.”

South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth refused to comment on the unrest, but signalled the president was still in charge.
“The president is going to speak soon. I can’t say anything until he speaks,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Security sources said the fighting broke out shortly before midnight Sunday, apparently between rival factions in South Sudan’s armed forces.
South Sudan won its independence in 2011 after its people voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to split from the north and form a new nation.

But political tensions have been high in recent weeks, and earlier this month key leaders of the ruling party — the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) — made a public challenge to President Salva Kiir and accused him of “dictatorial” behavior.
SPLA army spokesman Phil Aguer told local radio that troops loyal to the president were “establishing the identity of those who started the shooting.”
“The army is in control of the situation… the army is pursuing the attackers,” he said.  

(With AFP)  

Last Update: Monday, 16 December 2013 KSA 13:41 – GMT 10:41

Diplomat Stabbed During Attempted Abduction in Yemen

Diplomat from Japan Stabbed in Yemen.SANAA: Assailants stabbed a Japanese diplomat repeatedly Sunday after dragging him from his car in the Yemeni capital, scene of a spate of attacks on foreigners, the embassy and witnesses said.

The consul and second secretary at the embassy suffered five stab wounds in the morning attack in the Hadda neighbourhood, an embassy spokesman said.

“He is in a stable condition,” a diplomat said on Sunday afternoon, while a medical source said “he needs to be hospital for few days to recover.”

The embassy spokesman declined to disclose the name of the consul.

It was unclear if the attack was an attempted kidnapping.

The spokesman said he had been driving ahead of the consul, who was no longer behind him when he arrived at the embassy.

The diplomats had been driving without guards, he added.

Witnesses said six masked men attacked the diplomat in a small street, about 250 metres (820 feet) away from the Japanese mission.

They pulled him out of his car and one of the assailants hit him on the head with a pistol butt, before pushing him to the ground and driving off in his vehicle.

Local residents said they administered first aid in a nearby shop, until an embassy vehicle arrived and took him away.

An AFP correspondent found traces of blood in the street.

Security forces deployed around the hospital and set up checkpoints.

Foreigners are frequently attacked or kidnapped in Yemen, home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula which is viewed by the United States as the network’s deadliest franchise.

But armed tribesmen also kidnap foreigners to use as bargaining chips to gain government concessions.

A Dutch couple was set free last week after spending six months in captivity.

In late November, unidentified gunmen killed a Belarussian defence contractor and wounded another in an attack outside their hotel in Sanaa.

And a German embassy guard was killed in October as he resisted an attempt to kidnap him.

Hit-and-run assassinations are frequent in Yemen and are mostly blamed on Al-Qaeda militants, or stem from tribal disputes.

The United Nations closed its offices in Sanaa on Thursday over fears of possible car bombs attacks, and the American and Turkish schools were shut, but Western embassies remained opened.

The alert came after a brazen daylight attack on the defence ministry complex in Sanaa on December 5 that killed 56 people, among them expatriate medical staff.

In August, a security alert originating in Yemen prompted an unprecedented closure of American embassies across and beyond the Middle East.

Yemen has been battling through a tough political transition since veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted from power in February 2012, following a year of deadly protests against his 33-year rule.

The transition aims to culminate in a new constitution and pave the way for parliamentary and presidential elections in February 2014, but faces many hurdles.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: Diplomat from Japan Stabbed in Yemen.

Yemen Attack Fears Close UN offices but Embassies Remain Open

People visit the scene of the attack on the Yemeni defence ministry that took place on December 5, following the funeral of victims of the attack in the capital Sanaa on December 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED HUWAIS
People visit the scene of the attack on the Yemeni defence ministry that took place on December 5, following the funeral of victims of the attack in the capital Sanaa on December 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED HUWAIS

SANAA: The United Nations  closed its offices in the Yemeni  capital on Thursday over fears of possible car bomb attacks but Western  embassies remained open.

Most shops in Sanaa  were shuttered and little traffic ventured  out onto the streets as rumours swirled among the city’s residents of the risk  of an imminent attack.

The American and Turkish schools were also closed.

Security forces have been on high alert in the capital since a brazen  daylight attack on the defence ministry’s sprawling headquarters on December 5  killed 56 people, among them expatriate medical staff.

Information gleaned during the investigation into that attack, which was  claimed by Al-Qaeda, led to the discovery of two cars packed with explosives and  a massive search for five more suspected to be still inside Sanaa.

A UN source said Wednesday that a warning from Yemeni authorities of a  possible attack in Hada, the south  Sanaa neighbourhood where UN offices are  located, had triggered the closure order.

“Staff of the UN mission and UN agencies  have received instructions not to  turn up for work on Thursday,” the source said.

The source said it was a “precautionary measure following advice from Yemeni  security authorities”. The guidance warned of the “risk of possible acts of  terrorism in certain places, particularly in Hada.”

But a senior Yemeni security official said no warning had been issued through  authorised channels and dismissed the alleged guidance given to the UN as part  of “a campaign of rumours aimed at spreading fear in the country.”

Western embassy  security chiefs met with Yemeni  officials on Wednesday and no attack warnings were issued,” the official told  AFP, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The US embassy  said it remained open and referred all  questions about security to the Yemeni government.

The British and French embassies were also operating normally.

In August, a security alert originating in Yemen  prompted an unprecedented closure of  American embassies across and beyond the Middle East, which was mirrored by the  British and French missions in Sanaa.

Read more: (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Armored Vehicle Saves Yemen Presidential Advisor during Assassination Attempt

Meanwhile, gunman managed to shoot dead two senior Yemeni officers in separate ambushes on their cars on Sunday, security sources said.
Meanwhile, gunman managed to shoot dead two senior Yemeni officers in separate ambushes on their cars on Sunday, security sources said.

An adviser to Yemen’s president has survived an assassination attempt, the country’s government said.

An unidentified sniper fired shots with a weapon equipped with a silencer on Sunday at Yassin Said Noman’s car, according to the official Saba news agency.

The incident happened when the vehicle was driving through the capital Sanaa, but the bullet did not hit Noman as the car was armoured, the agency reported.

The attack was the third attempt to kill Noman, who is vice president of the National Dialogue Conference and secretary general of the Socialist Party.

“Targetting such a well-known political personality and important national figure is targetting the move towards reform that Yemen is currently undergoing,” the agency quoted the government as saying.

Other attacks

Meanwhile, gunman managed to shoot dead two senior Yemeni officers in separate ambushes on their cars on Sunday, security sources said. 

Brigadier General Saddam Hussein al-Dhahri, the head of security of the presidential palace, was killed by an attacker from a passing car as the victim left work in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz, a security source told the Reuters news agency.

In a separate incident, Police Colonel Abdullah Gaithallah was killed in the southern province of al-Baida by gunmen who ambushed his car.

It was not immediately known who the gunman were, but Yemeni officials have blamed a string of similar killings of police and military officers on armed rebels affiliated to al-Qaeda.

Violence is common in Yemen, where an interim government is facing southern secessionists and northern Houthi rebels in addition to the al-Qaeda-linked fighters who are seeking to overthrow the government and impose Islamic law.