People stand among debris outside the French embassy after the building was attacked, in Tripoli - Source: ReutersThe French embassy in Libya was hit by a car bomb on Tuesday, injuring two guards in the first such attack in the Libyan capital since the 2011 war that led to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
The explosives-laden car was detonated just outside the embassy building in Tripoli's the smart resdiential area of al-Andalus, officials said.
The blast wounded two French guards and set off a fire at the embassy entrance that engulfed some of the offices inside. Two cars parked outside also caught fire and two other nearby buildings were damaged. Firefighters rushed to the scene of the attack.
Diplomatic missions have been targeted in Libya, most notably an attack on the US mission in the eastern city of Benghazi last September that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.
In Paris, French President Francois Hollande said that the car bomb targets not only France but "all countries in the international community engaged fighting terrorism."
In a statement Hollande said "France expects the Libyan authorities to shed the fullest light on this unacceptable act, so that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice."
Hollande said that a foreign ministry representative will be sent to Tripoli to take "necessary measures" and to ensure the repatriation to French soil of the two French guards who were injured, to whom he addressed a message of solidarity.The Libyan officials said that one of the wounded guards sustained severe injuries while the other was lightly hurt, adding that an investigation was underway.
Car bombs are rare in post-revolutionary Libya, but foreign diplomatic missions have come under attack before, notably with the killing of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three officials when the American consulate in Benghazi was stormed by jihadists last September.
British, Italian and Tunisian consulates in Benghazi, Libya's second city, have been targeted for attack in the past year, and Britain warned its citizens in January that there was an "imminent threat" of an attack on foreign citizens in the city.
The reasons for today's attack are unclear, and Tripoli has been spared the jihadist violence seen in Benghazi. But the bombing comes amid an unprecedented crackdown on illegal militias in the Libyan capital. Over the past few weeks government forces have seized 36 bases used by militias, as prime minister Ali Zaidan struggles to assert control over the city.
In the southern desert, meanwhile, air forces jets are being used to strike suspected militants taking arms across Libya's porous border.