Militants Attack Luxury Hotel in Libyan Capital, 2 Killed

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Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, after a car bombing outside the building killed at least two security guards and set vehicles on fire.

All guests have been evacuated under armed escort, a spokesman for Malta-owned Corinthia Hotel said. The casualties occurred during the bombing, Essam Naas, a spokesman for joint security operations in Tripoli, said by phone.

It wasn’t immediately clear who ordered the attack. The gunmen are thought to belong to Islamic State, the hotel spokesman said. Local Al Nabaa Television, citing an unidentified official, said the assailants were targeting Omar El Hassi, prime minister of the Islamist government based in the capital. A rival administration is headquartered in the country’s east.

The attack comes as the United Nations holds talks in Geneva aimed at ending a standoff between the two governments and restoring stability to the North African oil producer. Turmoil has deepened over the three years since the ousting of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 with militias vying for influence.

The Corinthia Hotel, on the waterfront near the capital’s port, was home to diplomats after the 2011 war. Former Prime Minister Ali Zaidan was kidnapped from his room in October 2013 and released hours later.

Security forces fanned out around the hotel and sporadic gunfire was heard as they encountered militants inside. One gunman was arrested, state-run Lana news agency reported.

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A group calling itself Islamic State in Tripoli Province claimed the attack, labeling it the battle of Abu Anas Al Liby, according to SITE Intelligence Group. Al Liby, an alleged al-Qaeda militant accused of involvement in the bombing in 1998 of U.S. embassies in Africa, was captured by U.S. special forces in Libya nearly two years ago and died this month in an American hospital.

Islamic State became a rallying point for extremists worldwide after it announced a caliphate in large swaths of Iraq and Syria under its control.

Libya’s oil output dropped to between 200,000 and 300,000 barrels a day as insecurity spread, Ali Tarhouni, a former oil minister, said last week. That makes Libya, which holds Africa’s largest oil reserves, the smallest producer of the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The country was producing about 1.6 million barrels a day before the 2011 rebellion.