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Officials: Car bomb kills 2 UN staff outside mall in Libya

By RAMI MUSA AND SAMY MAGDY | Associated Press | Published: August 10, 2019

BENGHZI, Libya — A bomb-laden vehicle exploded Saturday outside a shopping mall in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, killing at least two U.N. security staff, health officials said. The attack came even as the country’s warring sides said they accepted a cease-fire proposed by the U.N. aimed at halting combat in the capital, Tripoli, during an upcoming Muslim holiday.

The officials said the blast took place outside Arkan Mall in the Hawari neighborhood, where people were gathering for shopping a day before the Eid al-Adha holiday begins. The Benghazi municipal council said the attack targeted a convoy for the U.N. Support Mission in Libya.

The site of the attack is close to offices of the U.N. support mission in Libya. The officials said the two dead hailed from Libya and Fuji. The blast also wounded nine people, including a 3-year-old child and a U.N. staff member from Jamaica, the health officials said.

Footage circulated online shows what appears to be burnt U.N.-owned vehicles as thick smoke bellows into the sky.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters. A spokeswoman for the U.N. mission in Libya did not answer phone calls seeking comment.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came just a month after two bomb-laden vehicles went off in Benghazi, the stronghold for the self-styled Libyan National Army. The July attack killed at least four people and wounded 33 others.

The warring sides, meanwhile, said they accepted a multiday truce for the Eid holiday, which begins Sunday.

Earlier this week, Ghassan Salame, the U.N. envoy for Libya, urged the LNA and the U.N.-supported government to declare a cease-fire for the holiday.

The Tripoli-based government on Friday responded positively to the proposal, while LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mosmari told a news conference in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday that they would abide by the cease-fire from Saturday to Monday.

If it takes place, the cease-fire would be the first since the LNA, led by military commander Khalifa Hifter, launched a surprise military offensive on April 4 aimed at capturing Tripoli, ushering in fierce battles with militias loosely allied with a U.N.-supported but weak administration in the capital.

The battle for Tripoli has killed more than 1,100 people, mostly combatants, and has displaced more than 100,000 civilians.

Thousands of African migrants captured by Libyan forces supported by the European Union are trapped in detention centers near the front lines. An airstrike on one facility early last month killed more than 50 people, mainly migrants held in a hangar that collapsed on top of them.

In past weeks, the battle lines have changed little, with both sides dug in and shelling one another in the southern reaches of the capital. They also resorted heavily to airstrikes and attacks by drones.

The LNA is the largest and best organized of the country’s many militias, and enjoys the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. But it has faced stiff resistance from fighters aligned with the U.N.-recognized government, which is aided by Turkey and Qatar.

Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed long-ruling dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Armed groups have proliferated, and the country has emerged as a major transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty for a better life in Europe.

Magdy reported from Cairo.

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