Libya's first suicide attack kills seven near Benghazi

Scene of suicide attack at a security checkpoint outside Benghazi on 22 December 2013 The suicide bomber detonated a truck loaded with explosives, witnesses said

Seven people have been killed at a security checkpoint near Benghazi in the first known suicide bomb attack in Libya since the fall of Col Gaddafi.

The attacker targeted the checkpoint in the village of Aguiria, some 50km (30 miles) east of Libya's second city.

At least eight people, including soldiers and civilians, were wounded.

The security situation in and around Benghazi has been worsening in recent months, with extremist militia blamed for almost daily attacks.

This latest incident reveals a shift in tactics away from the bombings and assassinations that have mainly targeted the security services, the BBC's Rana Jawad reports from Tripoli.

Analysis

Though Benghazi has seen several bombings and assassinations often targeting the army and police in the past year, this is the first suicide bombing Libya as seen and reveals a shift in tactics.

Unlike the rest of the country, many of the militias in the Eastern region, particularly in the cities of Benghazi and Derna, are motivated by religion rather than merely a desire to maintain political and military power.

The fear has always been that if government forces cracked down hard on them, they would become increasingly radical and might become more violent.

For more than a year, these groups were largely ignored, but in recent months hardliners have faced off against official forces and local residents.

Many will now fear that this first suicide attack may not be the last.

Unlike the rest of the country, many of the militias in the Eastern region are ideologically driven, she notes.

Travel warning

The suicide bomber detonated a truck load of explosives at the checkpoint early on Sunday.

"A Toyota truck approached the checkpoint and parked there," Aymen al-Abdlay, a Benghazi army officer, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"There was a young man driving, but when the army troops went to check it out, the vehicle exploded."

Waiting civilians as well as soldiers were among the victims.

No-one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the village is a known stronghold of the Islamist militia group Ansar al-Sharia, our correspondent says.

Benghazi has seen the rise of several extremist militia groups operating in the city since the civil war in 2011 that toppled the longstanding leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Militias took part in the uprising that led to the fall of Col Gaddafi but have been told by the interim government to disband or join the army by the end of the year.

For more than a year, many foreign governments have advised against all travel to Benghazi by their nationals.

The warnings followed an attack on the US consulate in September 2012 in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Hardline Islamist groups have since been blamed for that attack but no-one has been convicted.

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