Russian Embassy in Libya comes under fire, attack repelled

Reuters

By Ghaith Shennib and Thomas Grove

TRIPOLI/MOSCOW, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Russia's embassy in theLibyan capital of Tripoli came under fire on Wednesday and agroup of people tried to force their way into the compound, theRussian Foreign Ministry said.

Diplomatic sources in Libya said security guards firedshots to disperse a group of about 60 people that had approachedthe embassy. An attempt to enter the building was repelled andaccording to the Foreign Ministry no diplomats were wounded.

"The attackers opened fire and tore the Russian flag," theRussian Itar Tass news agency cited unnamed sources as saying.Embassy staff had been taken to the airport as a precaution.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevichtold Russian state television the situation had calmed. "InTripoli ...a shooting occurred and there was an attempt to enterthe territory of the Russian embassy."

The attack was symptomatic of volatility in Libya two yearsafter the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. Clan and tribalrivalries, as well as Islamist groups, have flourished in theabsence of strong central government. Security services,themselves riven, have struggled to maintain order.

There have been a number of attacks on Western diplomats bymilitant groups. Militants linked to al Qaeda affiliatesattacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and killed AmbassadorChristopher Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.

"REVENGE"

However, one Libyan security source said the attack did notappear to be directly linked to any militant group. He said thecrowd were angered by the killing, as they saw it, of a Libyanby a Russian woman.

"The group attacked the compound as an act of revenge,because of the killing of the Libyan," said the security source. The embassy was empty at the time.

The sources said Libyan authorities were searching for thegunmen.

Western powers, using air power, led the military campaignthat ultimately toppled Gaddafi. Russia, which had had closerelations with Gaddafi, did not take part in the action andcondemned what it called the West's abuse of a United NationsSecurity Council to intervene.

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