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Tripoli Force Suspects Rival Eastern Force Backers in Bomb Near Italian Embassy


Security officers gather at the site of a car bombing near Italian Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, Jan. 21, 2017.

A counterterrorism unit in the Libyan capital Tripoli said it suspected Saturday's car bomb near the recently reopened Italian Embassy was planted by backers of the powerful Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the eastern part of the divided country.

The blast occurred in central Tripoli about 350 meters from the Italian Embassy. The bodies of two men were recovered from the wreckage of the car.

Tripoli's Special Deterrence Force said in a statement released late on Wednesday that the men had been trying to target the embassy, but had been prevented from parking their car near the embassy compound's walls.

Tripoli is home to myriad of armed groups with shifting and conflicting loyalties.

In 2014 fighting between armed alliances backing opposing political factions resulted in rival governments being set up in Tripoli and the east.

Since March last year a third, U.N.-backed government has been trying to establish itself in the capital, but it has been unable to win support from groups in the east aligned with the government there and with the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).

The LNA has made significant gains over the past year in its "Operation Dignity" campaign against Islamist-led opponents in the eastern city of Benghazi, and has pushed west to control key oil facilities. It has said it is preparing to "liberate" Tripoli.

Many doubt it has the capacity to do so, but the claim has led to speculation that it is trying to lay the ground for a military takeover.

"According to the investigations the perpetrators of the terrorist act are connected with what is known as Operation Dignity, but it's still unclear if it was an individual act or on Operation Dignity's orders," Rada said in its statement.

"This terrorist act is a result of political conflict between east and west and aims to show the capital as unsafe."

It gave the names of the two suspects whose bodies had been found in the car, naming a third suspect who it said was still at large.

There was no immediate response from eastern officials.

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