French embassy bombed: Car Explodes Outside French Embassy

French embassy bombed, a explosion of a car parked outside the French Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, wounded two French guards on Tuesday in what appeared to be the first major terrorist attack on a diplomatic compound in the capital since the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011.

If deliberate, the blast would be the most significant such attack on a diplomatic facility in Libya since a siege of an American outpost in Benghazi last September, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. A string of more minor attempted attacks on Western or United Nations diplomats began before that attack and has continued since then, although mostly outside the capital.

No one claimed responsibility Tuesday, following the pattern of earlier attacks. But Libyans immediately suspected militant Islamists angry over the French intervention in Mali, where French troops are supporting government efforts to oppose Islamic militants in the north of the country. The assault came a day after the French Parliament voted to extend the French military deployment there.

In the months since French soldiers landed in Mali in January to roll back an attempted takeover by hard-line Islamists, militants in Libya and around the region have denounced the invasion as a new imperialist adventure by the Mali’s former colonial ruler.

And in Libya that anger has blended with mistrust of the motives behind France’s leading role in the Western airstrikes to help topple Colonel Qaddafi. While most Libyans are overwhelmingly grateful for the French airstrikes that stopped Colonel Qaddafi’s troops from crushing the insurrection against him at its start in Benghazi, Islamist militants and others believe the Western powers also sought oil and influence for themselves.

On Tuesday, Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, condemned the attack and pledged a swift investigation. The French and Libyan authorities would “make every effort to ensure that the circumstances of this odious act are exposed and it perpetrators quickly identified,” Mr. Fabius said in a statement from Paris.

An official in his ministry said Mr. Fabius would travel to Libya on Tuesday.

Separately, President Fran¤éois Hollande said the bombing was “aimed, by way of France, at all the countries of the international community engaged in the struggle against terrorism.”

“France expects the Libyan authorities to shed the fullest light on this unacceptable act, so that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice,” Mr. Hollande said in a statement.

Such an inquiry, however, may be difficult. The new Libyan government commands few disciplined police or military officers, and it often appears outmatched by the freewheeling militia formed during and after the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. Even seven months after the death of the American ambassador, little progress has been made to identify or punish his killers.

The explosion Tuesday morning took place at around 7 a.m. in Tripoli and tore through a wall of the French Embassy compound. Smoke billowed from the burning remains of a car believe to have been used as a bomb. Residents said the blast was one of the largest explosions in Tripoli since Colonel Qaddafi’s fall.

A resident living nearby, who spoke in return for anonymity for fear of reprisals, compared the blast to the worst days of violence in Iraq. “I was knocked out of bed. I lived in Baghdad and I woke up to explosions as big as this one,” she said.

Aside from the two guards, the embassy was largely empty at the time of the blast, limiting the casualties. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a French diplomat on the scene said the blast had destroyed half the building. Damage from the force of the blast extended about five hundred yards, breaking windows in neighboring buildings and houses. A broken water main flooded the street.

The diplomat said one of the two injured guards had left the hospital while the other was in a more serious condition.

Attacks or bombings targeting Western diplomats have been more common around the eastern city of Benghazi, in a region known as a center of Islamist militancy. But since the killing of the American ambassador most Western diplomats have pulled out of Benghazi and retreated to better-secured facilities in Tripoli, in the West.

In January, Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, closed its consulate in Benghazi and withdrew its staff because of security concerns after an attempted ambush of the Italian consul. Last month, Libyan security officials said they had arrested two men in the kidnapping near Benghazi of five British humanitarian activists, at least two of them women who had been sexually assaulted.