27/Jan/2015 // 224 Viewers
Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Libya’s capital Tuesday, killing
nine people including an American and three other foreigners, security
A group calling itself Islamic State-Tripoli Province claimed responsibility over
for the midmorning attack on the Corinthia Hotel, a seaside
complex popular with foreign businessmen, diplomats and journalists,
according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist social
The group designated its siege of the hotel
the “Battle of
” the monitoring group reported—an apparent reference to an
accused al Qaeda operative, a Libyan, who died earlier this month in a
hospital in the U.S., where he was to go on federal trial on charges of
helping carry out the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania that killed 224 people.
An American security contractor
employed by the Virginia-based security firm Team Crucible LLC was among
those dead, an executive of the firm said. Essam al-Naas, the security
spokesman for the government in Tripoli, said two of the foreigners
killed were Asian women believed to work for the Tripoli-based airline
Buraq Air, and that the fourth foreign victim was a Frenchman.
Mr al-Naas said two of the assailants died, at least one of them by detonating explosives in a suicide vest.
hotel assault began shortly after 9 a.m. when a team of four to five
militants detonated a car bomb on the main street in front of the
Corinthia’s entrance, said
a fighter with Libya Dawn, an Islamist group in control of the
capital Tripoli and west of the country.
The blast instantly
killed three guards, Mr. Ali said, enabling the gunmen to race into the
hotel lobby, where they fired at fleeing employees and guests.
guests were able to escape the hotel, including
leader of the Libya Dawn militia. But the gunmen succeeded in
taking several people hostage before boarding an elevator and holing up
between the 20th and 24th floors, Mr. Ali said.
A post on the
Twitter account claiming to speak for Islamic State-Tripoli Province—a
group that has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State insurgency that
occupies large parts of Iraq and Syria—said Tuesday morning that “heroes
of the Caliphate” had stormed the hotel, which it said housed
“crusader” security companies.
Libyan officials and a former top
intelligence official said recently that Islamic State had sent
experienced fighters from Syria to Tripoli.
Tuesday’s attack in
the Libyan capital is just the latest violence to afflict the North
African nation, which has seen almost continuous factional fighting
since longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in a popular
uprising and killed in late 2011.
The main conflict pits Libya
Dawn against a secular-oriented regime based in the eastern city of
Tobruk. Both sides claim the right to solely govern the country and each
boasts its own legislature and head of state.
Despite the claim
of responsibility, it wasn’t immediately clear whether the attack
stemmed from Libya’s internal divisions or from the broader regional
conflict between Arab regimes and Western governments, on the one hand,
and Islamic State on the other.
So far, there is no evidence
that local Islamic State fighters coordinated with the group’s central
franchise in the Middle East to plan Tuesday’s operation. There was no
claim of responsibility or praise from social network accounts connected
to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But if evidence surfaces that the
self-proclaimed “caliphate” there played a role, the attack could point
to an expanded footprint for a group whose rapid advance has unsettled
much of the Middle East.
In remarks carried by Libyan state news
the head of the Tripoli-based General Administration of the
Central Security, said preliminary investigations pointed to the
involvement of remnants of Gadhafi’s regime. He didn’t provide evidence.
The Islamist-backed cabinet frequently accuse its eastern rivals of
ties to Gadhafi loyalists.
Islamic State also claims a presence
in the eastern regions of Sirte and Derna, where it has carried out
grisly public beheadings of the sort that have become hallmarks of its
operations in Iraq and Syria, according a European diplomat and videos
purportedly posted by the group on social media.
manager working for a foreign joint venture in Tripoli said
international companies were at a heightened state of alert. “We were
asked to vacate our offices and told that they will be closed until
Sunday,” the manager said.
the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs,
condemned Tuesday’s attack, describing it as “another reprehensible act
of terrorism which deals a blow to efforts to bring peace and stability
to Libya.” She urged that such violence not be allowed to undermine
talks aimed at ending Libya’s political standoff.
In a rare piece
of good news, the United Nations said a second round of peace talks it
sponsors between Libya’s warring factions ended in Geneva on Tuesday in a
“positive atmosphere.” The Libyan participants also “strongly
condemned” the terrorist attack, the United Nations Support Mission in
Libya said in a statement. Groups aligned with the Tripoli government
are part of the dialogue, though not Libya Dawn, which nonetheless
declared a cease-fire after a first round of discussions earlier this
The Corinthia has frequently hosted meetings of the U.N. support mission in Libya.