BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - A suicide bomber detonated a car laden with explosives in front of a hotel where Libya’s elected parliament was in session in the eastern city of Tobruk on Tuesday, wounding three deputies and eight others, the assembly’s spokesman said.
The bombing is the biggest attack on the parliament since it set up in Tobruk, near the Egyptian border. The assembly, which was elected in June, shifted its seat to Tobruk for security reasons after violence in its planned location, the eastern port city of Benghazi, worsened.
The car exploded in a parking lot near the entrance gate to the hotel as lawmakers sat in a nearby hall, parliamentary spokesman Farraj Hashem told Reuters by phone. Three deputies and eight hotel staff were wounded, he said.
Until now, Tobruk has been relatively secure compared to the rest of Libya, which has been in violent turmoil since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled nearly four years ago. A car bomb in November targeted the city, but not parliament itself.
Libya’s conflict is pitting former rebel brigades which helped oust Gaddafi in 2011 but now fight for power and a share of Africa’s biggest oil reserves.
Details of Tuesday’s bombing were not clear. Another lawmaker at the scene said the attack was a car bomb, not a suicide attack. Officials often contradict themselves in Libya, which has no efficient state institutions or police.
The House of Representatives in Tobruk is allied to the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, who was also forced to relocate after Libya Dawn took control of the capital.
Thinni is based in the city of Bayda, while the parliament set up in the Tobruk hotel. An initial plan to relocate to the port city of Benghazi was called off as it was judged too dangerous.
Libya Dawn has established its own parliament in Tripoli, though this has not been recognized by world powers.
The conflict has been complicated by a separate battle in Benghazi where Thinni’s forces have merged with troops of a former general fighting Islamists.
Tobruk is located east of the coastal town of Derna, a hotspot for Al Qaeda sympathizers and other radicals.
Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi and Ulf Laessing in Cairo; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky