A massive truck bomb killed at least 60 people and wounded 200 others at a police training center in Western Libya on Thursday, just days after the main Libyan Islamic State branch attacked a key oil export terminal in the North African nation.
While militants linked to the terror group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, appeared to be behind Thursday’s suicide bombing — the worst in Libya since the 2011 fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi — there was no immediate and formal claim of responsibility.
Reuters reported that a bomb detonated at a police center in the coastal town of Zliten, situated between Tripoli and the port city of Misrata, as some 400 recruits were gathering for a meeting early on Thursday morning.
The Financial Times reported that Aamaq, a media group linked to ISIS, said the militant organization was behind the “martyrdom operation.”
But details were murky.
Zliten Mayor Miftah Hamadi described the attack as “horrific,” and the “explosion was so loud, it was heard from miles away.”
“All the victims were young, and all about to start their lives,” Mr. Hamadi told Reuters.
The development follows a wave of smaller attacks Monday that national security sources say was carried out by the so-called Libyan “province” of the Islamic State.
Although the ISIS branch has not fully seized control of any major oil ports in Libya, the group claimed Monday to have taken over the strategic coastal town of Ben Jawad before clashing with security forces around the nearby Es Sider oil export terminal.
The terminal sits near the heart of Libya’s “oil crescent,” a stretch of coastline between Benghazi and the central city of Sirte, which emerged months ago as the first significant stronghold for the Islamic State outside of its base in Syria and Iraq.
Libya descended into chaos following the U.S. and NATO-backed ouster of Gadhafi. Rival governments and the militias that support them have since fought for control of the nation and its energy reserves.
Western powers are pushing Libya’s factions to back a U.N.-brokered national unity government to join forces against Islamic State militants, but the agreement faces major resistance from several factions on the ground.
Reuters noted Thursday how an armed faction called Libya Dawn has controlled Tripoli for more than a year, setting up its own self-declared government, reinstating the former parliament and forcing the recognized government to operate in the east of the country.
Western officials say forming a united government would be the first step in Libya seeking international help to fight against Islamic State, including training for a new army and possible airstrikes against militant targets.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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