By George Grant.
Benghazi, 11 June:
A convoy carrying the British ambassador to Libya, Sir Dominic Asquith, was attacked by unknown assailants in Benghazi earlier today.
The ambassador was unharmed, but two close protection officers were injured during the attack. Both men are receiving treatment at the Benghazi Medical Centre. It is understood that neither injury is life-threatening, although one of the men may be at risk of losing an arm after receiving a serious wound to the shoulder.
According to an official spokesman at the interior ministry, Salem Khamaj, the attack began when a lone vehicle approached the convoy and fired on it with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), which is understood to have hit one of the two vehicles in the convoy. “Following that, there was an exchange of fire between the assailants and the convoy. Unfortunately the shooters were able to escape”, Khamaj said.
A spokeswoman at the British embassy in Tripoli also confirmed the attacks. “A convoy carrying the British Ambassador to Libya was involved in a serious incident in Benghazi this afternoon”, she said. “Two close protection officers were injured in the attack, but all other staff are safe and uninjured. We are working with the Libyan authorities to establish who was responsible for the attack.”
The spokeswoman added that they had contacted the Libyan authorities to encourage them to improve security in Libya, and that the government had agreed to increase security at UK embassy sites.
Condemning the attacks, NTC spokesman Mohammed Harizi confirmed that additional security would be provided, adding that the authorities were considering extending this precaution to all foreign diplomats operating in the country.
This is not the first time that Western targets have been attacked in Benghazi in recent weeks.
On 22 May, the Benghazi headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was attacked by a group of Islamist militants calling itself the Omar Abdul Rahman brigade. The group falsely claimed that the ICRC was “evangelising” and distributing Bibles in Libya.
The brigade also claimed responsibility for a bomb blast that took place outside the gates of the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi on 5 June. That attack took place one day after the assassination of Al-Qaeda second-in-command Abu Yahya Al-Libi by an American drone strike in Pakistan. Al-Libi was a Libyan national.
It is not yet known who was responsible for this latest attack, although speculation has already begun in Libya that the same brigade could be involved.