France’s foreign minister has condemned what he called a heinous attack on his country’s embassy in the Libyan capital and said everything would be done to find the perpetrators.
“This was a terrorist act … aimed at killing,” Laurent Fabius said after he flew in to Tripoli to inspect the damage caused by a car bomb attack that left two French guards injured.
“The terrorists who wanted to attack France and Libya and undermine the friendship between them will pay” for the attack, he said.
President Francois Hollande called on Libya to bring the bombers to justice and Fabius said Paris was dispatching a counter-terrorism magistrate to help with an investigation.
Libya’s government, struggling to exert its authority, said it was a “terrorist act” aimed at destabilising the country.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan visited the scene with Fabius, viewing the wreckage and the charred and damaged facade of the embassy.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. However, al-Qaeda’s north African arm, AQIM, had threatened retaliation for the French intervention in Mali as recently as last week.
Westerners in the region have been on alert since January’s bloody mass hostage-taking at the In Amenas natural gas plant in Algeria, close to the Libyan and Malian frontiers, during which fighters demanded Paris halt operations in Mali.
The United States said on Tuesday that it stood ready to assist Paris on the case if needed.
Patrick Ventrell, a state department spokesperson, said that the United States condemned the attack, which caused extensive damage to the French mission, and extended sympathies to the two guards who were injured.
The UN Security Council and UN leader Ban Ki-moon also strongly condemned the bombing.
A Security Council statement “condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack against the embassy of France in Tripoli.” Council members “expressed their deep sympathy to the families of the victims of this heinous act.”
“The secretary general condemns, in the strongest terms, the attack on the French embassy in Tripoli,” added deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey. “The targeting of diplomatic missions and their staff is not acceptable and never
One resident living less than 100 metres from the embassy said his windows shook when the first blast occurred.
A witness who lives near the embassy, Asad Naeeli, told Al Jazeera that the bomb went off around 7am (05:00 GMT).
“This is a big concern as a Libyan. You hear about things happening in different cities and now it is close to home,” he said. “It is a big concern for the security of Libya, it will delay many things.”
Diplomatic missions have been targeted in Libya, most notably an attack on the US mission in the eastern city of Benghazi last September that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.
However Tuesday’s attack is the first such serious assault on an embassy or foreign mission in the capital, Tripoli.