By Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 23 July 2013:
A mortar attack, apparently targeting Tripoli’s five-star Corinthia hotel, missed its intended target and blew a hole instead in an elderly couple’s flat.
The missile appears to have been launched from a vehicle left in the car park of some blocks of flats behind the luxury hotel, at around 4 pm today. The device never made it to the hotel, however, and instead hit the edge of one of the blocks of flats, setting it alight.
An elderly couple and a home help were in the flat at the time but no-one was injured. Local people and the fire brigade extinguished both the fire in the flat and the burning car.
A resident from the flats told the Libya Herald that he had left his house five minutes before the explosion took place. He had reached the end of the road that leads towards Tripoli Towers, he said, when he heard the blast. He turned back and saw a man run out of the car park and jump into a waiting car, which then sped away.
“I went back to the car park and saw a car burning,” he said, “but this car was not there when I left my house five minutes before.”
The man showed journalists the burnt-out footwell of the vehicle, which was full of charred wires. He said this was where the missile had been launched from, and showed how the vehicle had been positioned so the mortar was on a trajectory for the Corinthia.
The mortar casing was recovered and Libya Herald reporters witnessed it being put in the back of what appeared to be a civilian vehicle, which was then driven away.
A member of the public told the Libya Herald that the casing was a type 107 mortar. The Soviet-made 107mm M1938 mortar was used extensively during the Libyan revolution.
Although there is a large stretch of wasteland between the flats and and the hotel, these mortars can reach distances of up to 6,300 metres.
There was a marked absence of police or security personnel on the scene. One man claimed to be a policeman but he was not wearing a uniform. There was some suspicion and hostility towards journalists.
Guests in the Corinthia reported hearing a loud explosion. Pople working on the 16th floor of one of the five towers of the Dat Elemad nearby, heard the blast and reported that the building shook.