6 suicide attackers storm HQ of Libya's election commission, 14 dead

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. (AFP)
Updated 02 May 2018

6 suicide attackers storm HQ of Libya's election commission, 14 dead

  • First suicide attack of its kind in Libya since 2015
  • Raid by Daesh militants aims to derail the election process in Libya

TRIPOLI: Suicide bombers stormed the head offices of Libya’s electoral commission in Tripoli on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people and setting fire to the building in an attack claimed by Daesh.
The assailants also opened fire on employees of the High National Election Commission (HNEC) and fought a gunbattle with security forces trying to regain control of the site, officials said.
The attack appeared aimed at derailing efforts to organize elections in Libya by the end of this year, part of a UN-led attempt to unify and stabilize the country after years of conflict and political division.
Since December the electoral commission has registered nearly one million new voters across Libya, though no date has been set for polls.
Wednesday’s attack was the first of its kind in Tripoli since 2015. Though security across Libya remains volatile, violence in the capital has recently been limited to localized clashes between armed groups.
Immediately after the attack thick black smoke could be seen billowing from the electoral commission’s offices in the Ghout Al-Shaal district west of central Tripoli.
“I saw two suicide bombers myself... they were shouting,” said commission spokesman Khaled Omar, who fled the offices with other staff as the attack unfolded.
“A suicide bomber blew up himself inside the commission and the others set a part of the building on fire.”
A security official who spoke to witnesses at the scene of the attack said several gunmen had opened fire on guards while the suicide bombers entered the building, and that some may have later escaped.
Once inside the bombers shot dead employees at close range before detonating explosives, said the official, who asked not to be named.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on Amaq, its news agency. Two assailants — identified as Abu Ayoub and Abu Toufik — clashed with security forces before entering the building and detonating explosive jackets after running out of ammunition, the terrorist group said.
The health ministry said 14 people had been confirmed killed and seven wounded. Most of the victims were HNEC staff, with at least two security personnel also killed, Interior Minister Abdulsalam Ashour told a press conference.
The fire blackened the commission building, though HNEC head Emad Al-Sayah said the electoral database was safe.
“This breach targeted democracy, not just the HNEC,” Sayah told reporters. “The choice and future of Libyans were targeted.”
Libya has been in a state of turmoil since a 2011 civil war resulted in the overthrow of longstanding ruler Muammar Qaddafi by rebel fighters backed by NATO air strikes.
Elections in 2014 were disputed, resulting in rival governments backed by competing military alliances in Tripoli and the east.
Militants linked to Daesh have carried out suicide bombings across the north of the country, though the group lost most of its fighters in Libya when it was driven out of its stronghold in the central city of Sirte in 2016.
Libyan and Western officials say militants, including fighters loyal to Daesh and Al-Qaeda, are now concentrated in remote desert areas, but also have sleeper cells in coastal cities including Tripoli.
On Sunday a joint meeting of the Arab League, European Union, African Union, and United Nations “emphasised the importance of holding parliamentary and presidential elections” in Libya, noting that they were planned by the end of the year.
Some Libyans and foreign officials have questioned the push for new elections, expressing concern about the lack of security as well as legal and logistical challenges. 

 

 


Over 3 million virus cases reported in Mideast

Labourers, wearing protective face masks, disinfect the front of restaurant in Dubai's marina on March 16, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2020

Over 3 million virus cases reported in Mideast

  • Labourers, wearing protective face masks, disinfect the front of restaurant in Dubai's marina on March 16, 2020

DUBAI: The number of reported coronavirus cases has gone over 3 million in the Middle East, an Associated Press count showed on Friday, with the true number likely even higher.
Across the Mideast, there have been over 75,000 deaths attributed to the virus by health authorities, the AP count relying on reported figures by individual countries shows.
There have been 2.5 million recoveries from the virus causing the COVID-19 illness.
In the Mideast, the hardest-hit nation remains Iran, which served as the initial epicenter of the virus in the region. In Iran alone, authorities say there have been over 600,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with some 477,000 recoveries and 34,000 deaths. Yet even those numbers are believed to be low, Iranian officials say.

NUMBER

Deaths have been reported in the Middle East region due to the coronavirus, according to health authorities.

In some war-torn nations, it remains difficult to know the scope of the pandemic as well. In Yemen for instance, it’s believed that the vast majority of the country’s cases have gone undiagnosed and untreated, and health workers have said only those who are near death are usually brought to hospitals.