Islamic State suicide bombers attacked Libya’s election commission in the capital on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people in the worst such attack in years that aimed to disrupt a nation-wide vote planned for later this year. The two bombers infiltrated the building in central Tripoli and fired on people inside, then detonated their explosives when their ammunition ran out, IS said in a statement circulated by its affiliated Amaq news agency. The Health Ministry earlier said the attack also set fire to the building, which could be seen in online videos showing thick black smoke billowing upward and security forces engaging in a gun battle. IS and other Islamic extremists in Libya oppose democratic elections, which the United Nations and Libya’s foreign backers are urging to take place this year despite security problems in the oil-rich North African country. Militants have often targeted elections in other countries, and IS has called for attacks on voting infrastructure in Libya.
“(It) is a clear manifestation of everything that is wrong with the current shortsighted narrative of fake security and ‘progress,’” said Hanan Salah of Human Rights Watch in a post on social media. Her group has underlined how elections will be difficult while Libya remains dominated by a patchwork of armed groups who continue extra-judicial killings, property confiscation, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture.
Foreign embassies, observers and other institutions promptly condemned the attack as an attempt to undermine stability in Libya as it heads toward the general election later this year. The U.N. mission to Libya said that violence “will not deter Libyans from moving forward in the process of establishing national unity and the rule of law and institutions.”