August 31, 2015 / 3:41 PM / 2 years ago

Car bomb damages Italy's ENI joint venture office in Libyan capital

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A car bomb went off in Libya's capital Tripoli on Monday in front of the headquarters of Mellitah, an oil and gas joint venture between Italy's ENI and Libyan state oil firm NOC, witnesses said.

"The explosion damaged the buildings around the ENI complex and burned three cars," said Omar Khadrwai, a senior security official. "No one was hurt."

A Reuters reporter said there were broken windows and damaged doors at the building located next to a state bank.

In a text message, an ENI spokesman played down the extent of the damage. "Nobody wounded and no significant damage to the office buildings," he said. ENI's joint venture partner NOC said in a statement the blast had caused only minor damage and would not impact Mellitah's operations.

ENI is still active in Libya, a major oil producer gripped by chaos and fighting. Like other Western companies, ENI has withdrawn expatriate staff.

Mellitah's biggest asset, the El Feel oilfield, has been closed for months due to a protest by local security guards. The Wafa oil and gas field and its offshore operations are still working.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the car bombing. Islamic State has claimed in the past a string of killings of foreigners as well as attacks on embassies and oilfields in Libya.

Islamic State militants have exploited chaos in the North African country, where two governments allied to a host of armed groups are fighting for control four years after the ousting of veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Tripoli is controlled by a rival government which seized the capital a year ago by expelling the official premier to the east.

Tripoli government spokesman Jamal Zubia said in a message the car bombing was "an attempt to hinder the work of foreign companies." The eastern-based government blamed in a statement "terrorist groups occupying the capital."

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Hugh Lawson

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