TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A deadly car bomb exploded Monday near a hospital in a busy area packed with civilians in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, destroying part of the facility, officials said.
Officials gave conflicting casualty figures, with death tolls ranging from three to 10 in the chaotic aftermath of the attack.
Benghazi, which was the birthplace of the revolution that led to the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, has suffered a series of assassinations and other attacks, including the Sept. 11 assaults on the U.S. diplomatic mission that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The oil-rich North African nation is still largely dominated by militias, many including fighters who battled Gadhafi's forces during the 2011 civil war, and many attacks are blamed on them as infighting is rampant in the battle for control.
But witnesses and analysts said Monday's explosion stood out because it struck during the day in a crowded area, putting civilians at risk.
"The bombing is significant in that it is the first that targets civilians," Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in an email.
"The bombing is going to put renewed pressure on an already embattled Ministry of Interior to reign in the revolutionary brigades," he added, referring to militias.
The blast took place on Beirut Street, a residential and shopping area in Libya's second-largest city and quickly drew protesters to the streets to call for stronger security measures. Other vehicles on the street were destroyed, and the windows of nearby buildings were shattered.
Jalaa hospital, just a few hundred meters (yards) away from the explosion, had been protected for months by Ansar al-Shariah, an extremist group that disbanded its work as a militia following protests by Benghazi residents after the attack on Stevens. The hospital is now secured by a mix of militias and special army forces.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan acknowledged the government was in part to blame for the instability and lawlessness that continue to plague the North African nation 19 months after Gadhafi was captured and killed.
"Authorities did not take adequate precautions," he said in remarks carried live on Libya's al-Ahrar TV channel.
Zidan, who did not take questions from reporters, said that Libya is still trying to create a security force capable of tackling such attacks.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack. Zidan suggested it could be Gadhafi supporters or "other factions" — leaving the door open for a range of groups.
In New York, the U.N. Security Council " condemned in the strongest terms the deadly attack" and "underlined the need to bring the perpetrators of this act to justice." It urged all countries to cooperate with Libyan authorities to pursue the case.
Fathi al-Ubaidi, a top commander of Libya Shield, an umbrella group of militias aligned with the military, said one man was arrested but refused to give further details.
Continue reading this story on the...