BENGHAZI: A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a security checkpoint outside eastern Libya’s restive city of Benghazi overnight, killing at least seven people, witnesses and security sources said Sunday.
The blast left body parts strewn around the area, said Moetez al-Agouri, a police officer at the post, and the death toll was likely to rise.
“Seven bodies among the victims have been identified but some other bodies were torn to pieces by the explosion,” said Agouri, who was working at the checkpoint at the time but escaped injury.
Eight people including civilians were wounded in the attack on the checkpoint 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Benghazi and were taken to hospital in the nearby town of Tokra, Agouri said.
A witness told AFP the explosion had left a large crater in the ground.
The security post’s chief, Fraj al-Abdelli, who was wounded in the attack, said the checkpoint had received several threats since arresting four people in November who were carrying weapons, explosives, money and a hit-list.
He said a police convoy transporting the suspects to a Benghazi barracks after their arrest came under attack as it entered the city.
Four soldiers were killed and three wounded in that attack, he said.
Benghazi, the cradle of the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi, has seen a series of attacks in recent months that have killed more than 300 people.
On Friday, the head of military intelligence in Benghazi was shot dead during a visit to his family in nearby Derna.
And a day before, a man was killed in an explosion in his car in Tobruk, in the first attack of its kind in the city close to the border with Egypt.
Also on Thursday, the head of a man who had been kidnapped for ransom was found in Benghazi.
In another development reflecting the myriad security problems still plaguing the North African nation, protesters shut down Internet access in the south and west on Saturday.
Knife-wielding protesters stormed the headquarters of Libya’s largest telecoms provider and forced an eight-hour shutdown.
Dozens of people calling for Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to resign occupied the Libyan Telecom and Technology (LTT) HQ in eastern Tripoli.
The service was down for about eight hours.
In addition to calling for Zeidan’s ouster, the group condemned the blockade of vital oil terminals in the east, LTT communications chief Mourad Bilal said.
The months-long blockade has dealt a blow to Libya’s economy and slashed oil production from nearly 1.5 million barrels per day to just 250,000.
Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi on Saturday issued a renewed threat of force to lift the blockade.
“The government is making every effort to hold talks with those blockading the terminals,” he told journalists on the sidelines of a conference in Doha of the Organisation of Arab Oil Exporting Countries.
“But all options, including the military option, remain open to put an end to this situation.”
Zeidan had already threatened to use force against the strikers but without taking action.
Since Kadhafi’s overthrow in 2011, Libya’s authorities have struggled to impose their authority and stem rising lawlessness.