Libya: National Oil Corporation’s Tripoli offices under attack

Armed men have stormed the headquarters of Libya‘s National Oil Corporation (NOC) in Tripoli, where a blast and gunfire were heard, according to officials and witnesses. 

At least two staff of the oil firm and two of the gunmen were killed in the attack on Monday, said Ahmed Ben Salim, a spokesman for the Special Deterrence Force. 

“The death toll so far is two killed from NOC staff and two attackers,” he told Reuters news agency. 

Forces linked to the Tripoli government published pictures of a leg which it said belonged to one of the gunmen who had blown himself up.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Brigadier General Abdul Salam Ashour told the Associated Press news agency the gunmen have taken several people hostage.

“Our forces will go in and rescue the hostages,” Ashour said.

At least one explosion rocked the building soon after the attackers went in, starting a fire that swiftly spread through the lower floors, according to officials.

Photos posted on social media show firefighters trying to evacuate people from the building’s top floors, and wounded people being carried away from the scene.

The head of the company, Mustafa Sanallah, 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.”

An NOC staff who said he jumped out of a window to flee told Reuters that “several people were shot” during the attack.

No group has so far claimed the attack.

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said there was a “state of panic” following the attack.

“The special forces say their people have managed to get into the building and rescue many employees,” he said.

“The masked men were armed with automatic rifles when they stormed the main gate of the building. They shot at the security guards and used hand grenades,” he said, citing security officials. 

The attack on Monday came less than a week after a fragile truce suspended fierce clashes between rival armed groups in Tripoli, the latest eruption of violence in Libya, which has been in turmoil since a 2011 uprising.

In May, fighters affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed a deadly attack on the national election commission offices in Tripoli.

The group had also claimed an attack in 2015 on the Corinthia hotel, a landmark location in Tripoli.

Ambulances and security vehicles near the headquarters of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) in the Libyan capital [Hani Amara/Reuters]

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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