A car bomb struck a hospital in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, killing 13 people and wounding 41, Tarek Al-Kharraz, spokesman for the local security directorate, told the al-Ahrar television station.
“Everything there is a big mess,” Anas Feturi, an accountant, said in an interview at the scene. The bomb went off at about 1:30 p.m. local time in a car park between the al-Jala hospital building and a house and destroyed about 10 cars, he said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The bombing caused the most casualties of any blast since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in October 2011, though it wasn’t Libya’s first car bomb. A device detonated outside the French Embassy in Tripoli last month, wounding two French guards.
The blast at the hospital deepens tensions in Libya where the central government is struggling to exert authority and press on with reconstruction. May 10 saw the end of a two-week blockade of the Foreign and Justice Ministries in Tripoli by gunmen calling for the passage of the so-called Isolation Law to purge senior Qaddafi-era officials from office and the removal of Prime Minister Ali Zaidan.
The bombing “reinforces a sense the country is at one of its lowest post-revolutionary ebbs,” Shashank Joshi, associate fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said in an interview.
The hospital is an “ambiguous” target, making it difficult to speculate about who’s responsible, Joshi said. “The situation in eastern Libya is extremely prone to violence and there are a number of different groups with cross-cutting grievances,” he said.
The Jala hospital had been used as a base by the Ansar al Sharia militia, which has been blamed for the attack on the American consulate in the city in September that killed Ambassador Chris Steven and three colleagues.
Government forces and militias have been vying for control of the hospital in recent months. It’s occupied by the army at the moment. Four police stations have been attacked in Benghazi in the past three days.
The recent turmoil in Libya threatens to scare off companies and countries needed to help with the reconstruction two years after uprising.
The Pentagon put quick-reaction forces in Stuttgart, Germany, on standby on May 10, according to a U.S. defense official who asked not to be identified. The U.S. and U.K. embassies are running on a reduced staff, while the European Union mission has closed and the German embassy shut its consular section.
Yesterday, BP Plc said it was withdrawing “non-essential” foreign staff from Libya, based on advice from the British government.