Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Benghazi hit by blast on anniversary of attack on U.S. Consulate

A powerful blast on the main street in the Libyan city of Benghazi early Wednesday damaged a Foreign Ministry building and a branch of the Central Bank of Libya, an eyewitness said.

The explosion comes on the anniversary of the September 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

One security guard was slightly injured in Wednesday\'s blast, the Central Bank of Libya said.

The director of the bank branch, Abdel Qader Mohammed, said the explosion, which targeted the Foreign Ministry building, caused \"material damage\" to the branch, but its computer systems were not affected.

Eyewitness and Benghazi resident Sami Berriwen told CNN he heard the blast in the eastern city at about 7 a.m. (1 a.m. ET.)

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Berriwen, a university student, said that if the blast had happened just an hour later, the street would have been full of people. He said most Benghazi residents walk the street to get to school and to work, but because it was early, no one was out yet.

Berriwen said he did not see what caused the blast. He saw a fire truck but no casualties or ambulances on the scene.

Diplomatic missions and security officials have repeatedly been the targets of attacks in Benghazi, leading most Westerners to leave.

In January, gunmen targeted the car of the Italian consul general in Benghazi, but no one was injured. Bomb attacks also occurred last year on a U.N. convoy, as well as a convoy carrying the British ambassador. In November, unknown gunmen assassinated the city\'s temporary security director.

Other towns and cities, including the capital, Tripoli, have also seen frequent attacks.

In recent days, scores of U.S. Marines were moved closer to Libya to help beef up security before of the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States and the first anniversary of the attack on the Benghazi consulate.

Two U.S. officials told CNN on Monday that 250 combat-ready Marines had moved from their base in Moron, Spain, to the U.S. naval installation at Sigonella, Italy. That would enable them to reach Tripoli in three to four hours in the event of a crisis.

Other U.S. forces are helping boost security at various embassies in the region, since the period around September 11 is seen as a time of greater threat to U.S. interests.
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