Magharebia (Washington DC)

Libya: Tripoli Mob Attacks Russian Embassy

Tripoli — Two Libyans died during an attack by dozens of armed assailants on the Russian embassy in Tripoli, Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz said on Thursday (October 3rd).

The embassy compound, located in the Dahra district, overlooks a street that hosts a primary school and a house belonging to Moamer Kadhafi's first prime minister. On Wednesday night, it came under siege.

Armed men linked to Souk Al-Jumaa broke down the tall iron gate and scaled the embassy walls from three directions. They tore down a flag, blew up a car and attempted to storm the building.

According to a local security source, local youths and the Bashir al-Saadawi Battalion were able to contain the situation, by blocking the road with vehicles mounted with weapons.

Russian sources confirmed the account, telling Libya Herald that "one of the pro-government militias helped Russian security guards force the attackers out".

Wednesday's assault came a little over a year after militants stormed the US mission in Benghazi. The September 11th, 2012 siege killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

In August, a bomb exploded in front of the Egyptian consulate in Benghazi.

The latest attack on a foreign diplomatic property came a day after Libyan authorities announced that a Russian woman had been charged in the murder of Libyan Air Force officer Muhammad al-Susi in the capital's Souk al-Jumaa neighbourhood.

The woman was apprehended by Shield Forces and is now being held in Mitiga on charges of gunning down the officer with a Kalashnikov.

"The reason for this aggressive action toward our diplomatic mission was the murder on October 1st by a Russian citizen, Ekaterina Ustyuzhaninova, of a Libyan officer and the infliction of a knife wound on his mother," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"The incident provoked relatives and friends of the murdered Libyan to avenge his death with an attack on the Russian diplomatic mission," the Russian statement said.

But according to Tripoli Police Colonel Juma Mishri, "the matter has no relation to the embassy".

"The attack on the embassy was unjustified," the Libyan police officer added. Al-Mishri made it clear that the incident was the result of the "weakness of the government's plans, security-wise".

Journalist Hafed Moamer, however, was not surprised that an armed mob would attack an embassy in the capital.

"What happened in the Russian embassy is a natural consequence of the state of chaos that reigns in the country," the Zuwara reporter told Magharebia. "One is no longer able to speculate about what is going on in Libya, since chaos is the bottom line everywhere."

"The only loser is the citizen, who hopes for a safe country free of weapons and armed gangs that are deciding the fate of this suffering people," he added.

Muhammad Fathi, a second year student at the Faculty of Engineering in the University of Tripoli, agreed that the embassy attack reflects the country's fragile security apparatus.

"There is zero protection, and the state's plan is nothing but numbers in the balance sheet," he said.

He called upon Libyan leaders to build a real police force and make security visible on the streets.

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