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Libyan school bombed during recess

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iol pic afr _LIBYA-VIOLENCE-_0205_11

REUTERS

People stand at the entrance to a school, after unknown assailants tossed a hand grenade into the school in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. Picture: Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Benghazi - A bomb blast rocked the playground of a primary school in Libya's restive second city Benghazi during recess on Wednesday, wounding 12 children, two of them seriously, officials said.

Witnesses said a bomb was thrown over the school wall as the children were playing.

Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, has seen near-daily attacks on security and other targets in recent months as the weak central government has tried to rein in former rebel brigades turned militias.

Fadia al-Barghathi, spokeswoman for Benghazi's Al-Jala hospital, had earlier Wednesday said six children suffering “light to moderate” injuries were admitted there.

Another medic later revealed that six other children, two in serious condition, were taken to Benghazi medical centre.

A security official described the force of the explosion as “weak” and said a hunt was under way for those behind the attack.

“Witnesses saw an individual throw an explosive device over the school wall during recess,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Wednesday's school blast came after a patrol of Libya's Al-Saiqa special forces unit was attacked by unknown gunmen during the night in the centre of Benghazi, causing no injuries.

A security official said the armed group had then set upon a sit-in being staged by a group of anti-government protesters, torching their tents and cars.

The gunmen later in the night attacked an Al-Saiqa checkpoint at Al-Jala hospital, sparking a firefight which, however, left no injuries.

The latest attacks on Al-Saiqa come after three members of the special forces were killed in a new wave of violence that struck Benghazi last week.

Clashes between militia made up of former rebels and the special forces erupted in the city after the son of Al-Saiqa's commander in Benghazi was kidnapped late January.

A military source said the abduction of Ali Abu Khamada, son of military commander Wanis Abu Khamada, was aimed at pressuring the special forces to bring about the release of prisoners held by the army.

The special forces had last month announced the arrest of four suspects in Benghazi in possession of a hit list of officers to be targeted or who had already been killed.

Militants have also attacked foreign missions in Benghazi, including a September 2012 assault on the US consulate that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

Eastern Libya has become a bastion of Islamist extremists, with authorities avoiding a full-blown confrontation with heavily armed former rebels pending the formation of a regular army and police force.

Sapa-AFP


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