At least eight people, including five foreigners, were killed during an attack by gunmen against a luxury hotel in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Tuesday, a security official told local television.
Mahmoud Hamza, director of Libya’s special deterrence force, told al-Naba television that five foreigners, including two women, as well as a security officer and two of the gunmen, died in the attack on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli. He did not give the nationalities of the foreigners.
Militants from Isis in Libya claimed responsibility for the attack.
Security forces had surrounded the Corinthia Hotel in central Tripoli and gunfire was heard from nearby.
A hotel staffer said the attack began when five masked gunmen wearing bulletproof vests stormed the hotel after security guards at the hotel’s gate tried to stop them. He said they entered the hotel and fired randomly at the staff in the lobby.
The staffer said the gunmen fired in his direction when he opened his door to look out. He said he joined the rest of the staff and foreign guests fleeing out the hotel’s back doors into the parking lot.
When they got there, he said a car bomb exploded in the parking lot, only a hundred meters away.
He said this came after a protection force entered the lobby and opened fire on the attackers. He said two guards were immediately killed.
The staffer spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being targeted later by militants. He said the car bomb left at least five cars in the parking lot burned and damaged some windows in the hotel’s facade.
He said the hotel had Italian, British and Turkish guests, but the hotel was largely empty at the time of the attack.
He said the militia-backed Prime Minister Omar al-Hassi usually resides at the hotel, but was not there Tuesday. Al-Hassi’s security guards also weren’t there, he said. The hotel previously came under attack in 2013 when a former prime minister was abducted there.
‘The security forces are evacuating the guests floor by floor. There was shooting between the gunmen and the security forces,’ Essam Naas, a spokesman for Tripoli security forces, told Reuters.
‘It is more than likely that there are hostages held by the gunmen on the 23rd floor.’
One gunman has been arrested, Naas said, adding that security forces were surrounding the seaside hotel. Two Filipino women were wounded by smashed window glass.
Several others were wounded in the attack, the sources said, without providing further details. Several ambulances were gathered near the hotel.
—Courtesy of Pat Dollard