CAIRO: Two suspects have been arrested in connection to twin car bombings in an eastern Libyan town where a U.N. envoy was meeting with the prime minister, a senior Libyan security official said Monday.
Neither U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon nor Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani were targeted in the bombings in the eastern town of Shahat, near the city of Bayda on Sunday. Top security officials were holding a meeting in the city at the same time, the official said.
The two suspects are from the eastern city of Darna, where Islamic extremists pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group last month, he said.
Samir Ghattas, the spokesman for the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, issued an update Sunday on Twitter: “after explosions (2 heard, probably 100m far) UNSMIL’s delegation left for the airport.”
The official said the bombings are the latest in a series of attacks aimed at destabilizing the region of Bayda, where the Cabinet convenes, and the far eastern city of Tobruk, where the elected parliament meets.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Libya for months has been gripped by militia violence that has claimed hundreds of lives and cleaved the country into hostile rival camps, with the elected government largely confined to the east and a rival Islamist-backed government and parliament in Tripoli.
Leon is shuttling between the eastern and western regions, trying to strike a deal to end the fighting.
After longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, successive weak central authorities were forced to rely on a patchwork of militias that emerged during the fighting, many of which have strong tribal, regional or ideological loyalties that put them at odds with one another.
The violence spiked after Islamists were defeated in June elections. Last week the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court in the capital Tripoli ruled the elections illegal, a decision that was welcomed by the Islamists but dismissed by the internationally recognized government in the east.