Libya Channel with Reuters
The Libyan Islamic State Group claimed a suicide bombing at a checkpoint near Khoms, western Libya, on Tuesday, which killed seven guards allied to Libya’s rival government and injured 17 civilians.
The assailant was driving a lorry packed with gas cylinders, which detonated at the guard post of “Al-Nahr”, some 100 km east of the capital on the road between the western cities of Khoms and Msallata.
Security sources initially reported five victims from Misrata, Khoms and Msallata and aged between 22 and 32 years old, according to hospital sources. The death toll was subsequently raised to seven guards.
They were part of security provided by Libya’s rival government, which has governed Tripoli since armed coalition Libya Dawn took over the capital in the summer of 2014, forcing the internationally-recognized government to operate in the east of the country.
Most of the injured were civilians passing through the checkpoint – ten of the 17 were wounded critically.
The Islamic State Group claimed the attack via an online statement bearing the logo of its western Libyan branch – “IS Tripolitania Province” that was issued later on Tuesday. “With the grace of God, the soldiers of the Caliphate succeeded in striking a checkpoint manned by the military police …. and killing a number of apostates”, the statement read.
Dawn’s positions have been repeatedly targeted by IS since the group wrestled control of the strategic central Libyan city of Sirte from Dawn forces in May.
The United Nations, meanwhile, is trying to negotiate a peace agreement to form a unity government between the two rival factions, tasked with defeating IS.
The UN appointed a new envoy – German diplomat Martin Kobler – last week who has promised to restart negotiations imminently.
Armed jihadi groups like IS have exploited the breakdown in security to build footholds across the coastline, worrying Europe which lies just across the Mediterranean.
On Sunday France’s Defense Minister warned that the country’s main armed factions would be committing suicide unless they stop fighting each other and take on IS’s growing presence in the North African country.
“Libya preoccupies me very much,” French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio, nine days after Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in Paris.
“[IS] is in Libya because it can exploit the internal rivalries … If we reunite these forces, [IS] will cease to exist,” Le Drian said.
Le Drian called for a international summit bringing together neighboring countries as soon as possible to get some kind of political agreement in Libya.
“It is an emergency. Tunisia is nearby, Egypt is nearby, Algeria is directly concerned, Niger, Chad … these countries need to be able to organise a forum with the support of international organisations and the United Nations,” he said.
Le Drian said a French warship was in the area with other ships from Belgium, Britain and Germany as part of a European effort to tackle illegal migration in the Mediterranean Sea.
He also said the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to back France’s involvement in air strikes in Iraq and Syria, would be fully operational from Monday.