A bomb exploded at a courthouse in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Friday, wounding four people and damaging nearby buildings in a new challenge to the government’s struggle to restore order.
A security official said three explosive devices were planted near a courthouse wall. The blasts shattered windows of a nearby hospital, wounding one person inside.
The explosion left gaping holes on the side of the courthouse in the center of Benghazi, and shattered the windows of the building as well as a nearby office block.
Security guard Ashour al-Farsi said the blast was set off around four in the morning. “We heard huge booms and rushed out to see what it was,” he told Reuters.
“That’s when the glass shot through my leg,” he said, adding that two other security guards were also hurt.
Security sources told AFP “unknown assailants booby-trapped the building” and set off the explosion at “exactly 5 am (0300 GMT).”
Witnesses and residents told AFP the blast was very intense.
“It left residents in the area and patients being treated in a nearby hospital completely shaken up,” one said.
Government spokesman Mohammed al-Harizi told AFP that investigations were underway to determine the identity and motives of the assailants.
He said investigators had found graffiti at the scene expressing support for former leader Muammar Qaddafi, who was captured and killed by rebels in October.
“They found some slogans related to Qaddafi’s regime,” Harizi said, without elaborating.
Residents of Benghazi, the cradle of Libya’s revolution, have voiced frustration at being all but forgotten by the new leadership in Tripoli since Qaddafi was ousted in August.
The blast came just hours after the arrival of the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), which usually meets in Benghazi during the final week of every month.
Late Thursday, clashes sparked by a prison revolt in Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that toppled Kadhafi, left one person dead and at least four wounded.
Security sources blamed the prison-break attempt on radical Islamists.
The Mediterranean city has been hit by sporadic acts of violence this year, including an attack on government buildings, the desecration of a World War II cemetery, clashes at political rallies and the failed bombing of a U.N. convoy.
Libya is also facing a leadership crisis with key members of the ruling National Transitional Council pushing for a no confidence vote against the government of interim Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kieb.
Harizi said “no decisions” had been reached on that topic.
In late January, protesters stormed the local headquarters of the ruling NTC, smashing its windows with stones and metal bars. On April 10, a home-made bomb was thrown at a convoy carrying the head of the United Nations mission to Libya but no one was hurt.
Hampered by the lack of an effective national army or internal security force, the NTC is grappling to disband dozens of powerful militias that effectively control various parts of the country.
Militia chiefs have resisted attempts to integrate their personnel into the official military and police forces.