TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A powerful car bomb exploded Wednesday near Libya’s Foreign Ministry building in the heart of the eastern coastal city of Benghazi, security officials said, one year to the date after an attack there killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
The early morning blast targeted a building that once housed the U.S. Consulate under the rule of King Idris, who former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi overthrew in a 1969 bloodless coup. The explosion caused no serious causalities, though several passers-by were slightly wounded, officials said.
The bomb blew out a side wall of the building, leaving desks, filing cabinets and computers strewn among the concrete rubble. It also damaged the Benghazi branch of the Libyan Central Bank along a major thoroughfare in the city.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
Gadhafi was killed after eight-month uprising that descended into a civil war in 2011. Since then, successive Libyan interim governments have failed to impose law and order. The country remains held hostage by unruly militia forces initially formed to fight Gadhafi. The militias, which have huge stockpiles of sophisticated weaponry, now threaten Libya’s nascent democracy.
Car bombs and drive-by shootings since the civil war have killed of security officials in Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising.
The car bombing comes exactly one year after al-Qaida-linked militants stormed the U.S. mission in Benghazi and a nearby U.S. building, killing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Both Wednesday’s bombing and last year’s attack on the American consulate took place on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The attack sparked a wave of criticism toward President Barack Obama and his administration for its handling of the attack and its aftermath. The administration closed 19 diplomatic posts across the Muslim world for almost a week last month out of caution over a possible al-Qaida strike — likely in response to the Benghazi criticism.