At Least Eight Killed in Deadly Attack on Corinthia Hotel
Gunmen on 27 January detonated car bombs outside the Corinthia Hotel in central Tripoli then entered the hotel firing at staff and guests. One of the attackers reportedly blew himself up by detonating an explosive vest. Three security guards and five foreigners were reportedly killed, including an American and a Frenchman. Social media reports suggest the attack was carried out by supporters of Islamic State in retaliation for the death of Anas al-Libi in the US, although this remains unverified. Mohamed Eljarh discusses the implications of this attack in this article for Foreign Policy
The Islamic State has become more visible in western and southern Libya in recent weeks after months of fierce fighting in the eastern city of Benghazi, where it has faced troops led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar. Militant Islamist groups in the east are facing increasing pressure from the national army and security apparatus, which is loyal to the internationally recognized government in Tobruk. (Most of the country’s Islamist militias are fighting on the side of the rival, Tripoli-based government — whose head, Omar al-Hassi, is said to have been a guest in the Corinthia Hotel at the time of the attack.) The army has successfully ratcheted up the pressure on militant groups in the east by cutting off their supplies and surrounding the areas in which they operate. The success of these operations has likely pushed many Islamic State militants and others to shift to other areas of the country.
The attack in Tripoli today, Jan. 27, underlines the huge threat from extremist groups throughout Libya. As Libyan delegations meet in Geneva for a second round of internationally mediated talks in a bid to find a political settlement to end the ongoing crisis in Libya, terrorist groups such as the Islamic State continue to destabilize the situation, recently even capturing the eastern city of Derna. And while militias continue to battle each other west of Tripoli, Islamic State fighters have managed to strike at the heart of the capital with car bombs and suicide bombers, fueling the cycle of destabilization.
This attack marks a shocking escalation in violence as foreigners are brought into the conflict’s firing line. The Wall Street Journal outlines the international community’s response to the attack within Libya:
International companies have gone to a heightened state of alert, said a Libyan manager working for a foreign joint venture in Tripoli. “We were asked to vacate our offices and told that they will be closed until Sunday,” the manager said.
The Corinthia has long hosted journalists and temporary offices for international organizations, including meetings of the U.N. support mission in Libya.
A joint statement on Libya was today issued by the Governments of the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, and the United Kingdom condemning the attack on the Corinthia and reaffirming support for the UN’s ongoing dialogue efforts. This interesting BBC report on the attack and what life is like living under Libya’s militias is also worth a look.