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Update 10 | Islamic State terrorists detonate suicide bombs in Corinthia siege

LIVE • Terrorists detonate car bomb in hotel car park at 9:10am, three security guards dead • Suspected IS affiliates enter the hotel in a barrage of gunfire, were Tripoli PM Omar al Hasi was • Tweets suggest revenge operation for death of Al Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Libi • Foreign Ministry reiterates travel advisory against all forms of travel

Matthew Vella
27 January 2015, 9:41am
Last updated on 27 January 2015, 9:37pm
Photo of suspected suicide bomber Abu Ibrahim of Tunisia, shared on the Twitter feed of the Islamic State in Tripoli
A photo from the Corinthia CCTV of one of the attackers
Stills of CCTV images purporting to show two of the gunmen involved in attack the Corinthia
Photo: Wheelertweets/Twitter
Photo: alwahieshi/Twitter
Photo: Twitter
Red Crescent personnel outside the Corinthia Bab Africa
Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter
Abu Anas al-Libi, 50, was on the FBI's most-wanted list with a $5 million price on his head when he was captured by US troops in the Libyan capital Tripoli in October 2013
Photo: alwahieshi/Twitter
Photo: Twitter
A group of terrorists believed to be affiliated to the Islamic State, carried out an attack on the Corinthia Hotel of Tripoli at 9am Tuesday morning.

According to Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat, four armed attackers blew themselves up inside the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli as security forces cornered them on the 21st floor of the Corinthia Bab Africa.

The terrorists were killed at around 1:57pm, after Libyan security forces stormed the building before a shootout ensued on the top floors of the hotel where the gunmen were holed up.

The attack left at least two security guards outside the hotel dead, and a Filipino Corinthia employee dead.

At 9:10am, a car bomb exploded outside the five-star Corinthia Bab Africa in the capital Tripoli, before a group of gunmen entered the hotel in a barrage of gunfire.

Prime Minister Omar al-Hasi - who leads the Tripoli government led by Libya Dawn (Fajr Libya) was said to be inside the hotel at the moment of the attack, but he left safely together with other government officials and diplomats.

Hassan al-Abey, a corporate sales manager at the hotel, told the Wall Street Journal that five masked attackers wearing bulletproof vests stormed the hotel, shooting in the air.

A Libyan security official, Mahmoud Hamza, commander of the so-called Special Deterrent Force, said as many as five foreigners were killed by the gunmen.

All staff was evacuated from the building, including all Maltese employees, who were relocated to a safe zone. The hotel had Italian, British and Turkish guests, but the hotel was largely empty at the time of the attack. No diplomatic missions were present inside. Eight United States nationals were present in the hotel and evacuated.

Islamic State affiliates

A breaking news alert from IS’s Tripoli district announcing the incursion ‘against the apostate army and police close to the gates of the Corinthia Hotel’ in the name of Sheikh Abu Anas Al Liby
It is believed that Islamic State affiliates in Libya carried out the attack due to the fact that hotel houses diplomatic officials and security companes.

A tweet sent out by the @Islamya14 account - the earliest on record about the attack - reads as follows: "Urgent [#ولاية_طرابلس] storming of Corinthia with diplomatic missions, security companies crusade process immersive."

At 9:22am, another Twitter account @anesheeni, tweeted: "Now the invasion of Sheikh Abu Anas Libi - acceptable to God the Corinthia stormed diplomatic missions and businesses."

Foreign Policy correspondent and analyst Mohamed Eljarh tweeted that terrorist organisation Islamic State announced that the attack on the Corinthia was "in revenge for the death of Abu Anas al-Libi, an alleged al Qaeda operative accused of involvement in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa who was captured by U.S. special forces in Libya, and died this month in a US hospital.

A company spokesman said all staff, Maltese nationals included, were evacuated from the building. The attack comes at a time when the United Nations is also holding peace talks between warring Libyan factions in Geneva.

Libya Dawn, which took control of Tripoli and is now contesting the legitimacy of the internationally-recognised Al Thani government in Tobruk, accused loyalists of General Khalifa Haftar's Dignity Operation, of being behind the attack.

Government, EU reaction

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted that the Maltese government was working closely with the Corinthia Group following the bomb explosion. Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said his thoughts and prayers were with Corinthia staff.

Muscat told journalists in Brussels that the attack on the hotel “was not an attack targeting Malta or the Corinthia Group”.

“The information we have at this stage, including from intelligence sources, is that the attacks were not against Malta or the Corinthia Group. There are at least two versions of events: one attributing the attack to an extremist group from Derna affiliated with ISIS and a second saying the attack targeted the prime minister of the Tripoli government,” he said.

Muscat said there were also suspicions that the attack targeted individuals who were lodging at the Corinthia but was not in a position to confirm this information.

All of the eight Maltese nationals employed at the hotel are safe. Muscat urged Maltese citizens in Libya to return to Malta.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs said it was closely monitoring the ongoing situation at the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli. "All Maltese employees are safe and out of harm’s way. The government again reiterates its travel advice issued in August 2014, against all forms of travel to Libya due to the prevailing situation."

In a comment to the press in Brussels, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the Maltese still working in Tripoli were there against the advice of the government. "We still have to see whether this attack has any connection to Maltese interests... our Security Services are monitoring the situation."

The EU's High Representative Federica Mogherini said the attack at the Corinthia Hotel was "another reprehensible act of terrorism which deals a blow to efforts to bring peace and stability to Libya."

The EU expressed solidarity with the victims and their families. "The EU strongly supports the efforts of the ongoing UN led talks to bring a political solution based on respect and dialogue. Such attacks should not be allowed to undermine the political process."

Evacuations at Burj Tripoli and Dat el Emad complexes also took place following the bombing.

The Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli had been the home of former Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan when he was kidnapped there by armed militiamen.

Matthew Vella is editor MaltaToday.com.mt and MaltaToday on Sunday.

He joined Mediat...
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