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Gunmen launch deadly assault on Libya hotel

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Officials say at least 8 killed in attack on hotel, a hub of government and diplomatic activity in capital Tripoli.

Gunmen have stormed a luxury hotel in Libya’s capital, killing at least three guards and five foreigners, officials said.

The attack, which included a car bombing, struck the Corinthia Hotel, which sits along the Mediterranean Sea.

Mahmoud Hamza, commander of the so-called Special Deterrent Force, told  private satellite television station al-Nabaa that the situation was “under control” on Tuesday afternoon, though he couldn’t confirm the whereabouts of the gunmen.

He also said five foreigners were killed, without elaborating, according to a report from the AP news agency.

Another security official earlier said the gunmen killed three guards and took hostages, but had no further information on the captives’ identities. He also said that two commercial landmark towers behind the hotel were evacuated out of security concerns. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to reporters.

Reuters news agency reported that hostages have been taken.

Security forces surrounded hotel in central Tripoli and gunfire was heard from nearby, an AFP new agency photographer said on Tuesday.

According to security sources at the scene, four armed men detonated a car bomb in front of the hotel, killing a guard, before rushing inside.

Several others were wounded in the attack, the sources said, without providing further details. Several ambulances were gathered near the hotel.

“The incident today sends a message that Tripoli is not secure,” journalist Mary Fitzgerald, reporting from Libya, told Al Jazeera.

“This will undermine the message that they are trying to send,” she said, referring to the government based in the Libyan capital.

Developing situation

In a brief statement on Twitter, the Tripoli branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed to have stormed the hotel, the SITE Intelligence monitoring group said.

It was not clear whether any guests remained inside the hotel, which is a major hub for diplomatic and government activity in Tripoli.

“It’s an evolving situation, what we’re hearing is what is being reported on the news,” a spokesman for the Malta-based Corinthia Hotel chain, Matthew Dixon, told AFP by telephone.

“Our thoughts are with our staff and guests,” he said. “We have no further information.”

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini expressed concern, calling the attack “another reprehensible act of terrorism which deals a blow to efforts to bring peace and stability to Libya.”

She expressed “solidarity with the victims and their families” but provided no details of casualties.

“Such attacks should not be allowed to undermine the political process,” Mogherini said in a statement.

Source: Agencies

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