BENGHAZI, LIBYA - Security forces of Libya’s U.N.-backed government on Monday stormed the headquarters of the country’s national oil company in the capital Tripoli shortly after gunmen had gone into the building, shooting randomly, setting off explosions and taking hostages, officials said.
The Health Ministry said two people were killed and 10 others were injured in the attack, according to initial information. Health official Malek Merset had earlier said that there were dozens of injuries caused by the gunfire, smoke inhalation or explosions.
At least one explosion rocked the building soon after the gunmen went in, starting a fire that swiftly spread through the lower floors, according to the officials.
Mustafa Sanallah, head of the Libyan National Oil Company, told a Libyan television channel that explosions and an exchange of gunfire between the attackers and the building’s security guards have caused an unspecified number of deaths and injuries.
“The building was heavily damaged due to the fire. Smoke is everywhere,” Sanallah said. “The gunmen attacked the lower floors with random shooting and explosions. It’s a very violent attack.”
There was no word on the fate of the gunmen, described by Libyan officials as “terrorists,” or whether they were still holding hostages. It was not immediately clear either whether the security forces were in control of the building.
Earlier, the Interior Minister of the U.N.-backed government, Brig. Gen. Abdul-Salam Ashour, said the attack was carried out by six gunmen and that employees were inside the building when it took place.
The U.N. mission in Libya condemned the attack, describing it as “cowardly” and called on Libya to cease their “futile side conflicts” and unite to rid their nation of terrorism.
Monday’s attack followed recent fighting in Tripoli between rival armed groups, which left at least 61 people dead. A cease-fire has been in place since last week.
Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi and led to his death. It is now governed by rival authorities in Tripoli and the country’s east.