Car bombs exploded outside the embassies of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in Tripoli, Libya, early on Thursday, apparently in a backlash against the two countries for their role in a regional proxy war playing out in Libya.
No one was wounded in the blasts, according to officials. The embassies were closed months ago, and the bombs exploded early in the morning. A day earlier, bombs in the eastern Libyan cities of Tobruk and Baida killed at least five people and wounded at least 20.
All four blasts appeared to be part of the same civil conflict and regional tug of war. Three years after the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya has collapsed into a violent struggle for power between two rival coalitions of militias and tribes.
The side that controls Tripoli includes hard-line and more moderate Islamists, as well as non-Islamist regional or tribal groups who all say they are fighting against a return to Qaddafi-style authoritarianism. The other side, based in Tobruk and Baida, includes former soldiers loyal to Colonel Qaddafi and tribal groups who say they are fighting Islamist extremists.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have backed the anti-Islamist faction. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and their ally, Saudi Arabia, all see Libya as a central front in a broader regional war against the forces of political Islam — a fight that began to intensify when the Egyptian military ousted President Mohamed Morsi last year.
The United Arab Emirates launched a series of airstrikes from Egyptian bases against Islamist-allied militias fighting in Tripoli over the summer. And Egyptian forces have actively aided anti-Islamist military units fighting around Benghazi in eastern Libya.
Western diplomats familiar with intelligence reports say that Egyptian special forces have participated in raids near the airport in Benghazi, Libya, as well as at a camp near the Libyan stronghold of Derna, with mixed results.
The leaders of Libya’s Islamist allied coalition, however, now blame Egypt and the United Arab Emirates for much of their opposition. The anti-Islamist factions blame Qatar and Turkey for backing the Islamists.
Each side in Libya’s conflict now claims its own government — one in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk. The anti-Islamist government in Tobruk includes the headquarters of a recently elected Parliament, although it operates with little visibility and the number of lawmakers attending its sessions has been difficult to assess.