The French embassy car bomb in Libya

A massive car bomb targeted the French embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli this morning. The explosion occurred around 7 AM local time in the residential area of Hay al Andalus. Two French guards were wounded. So was a Libyan girl who lived in a nearby house. She had to be flown to Tunisia ...

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images

A massive car bomb targeted the French embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli this morning. The explosion occurred around 7 AM local time in the residential area of Hay al Andalus. Two French guards were wounded. So was a Libyan girl who lived in a nearby house. She had to be flown to Tunisia for specialized treatment.

The Libyan minister of interior, Ashour Shuwial, said the damage was extensive, but because the explosion occurred early in the morning, the number of causalities was minimal. That however, didn't stop Libyans from worrying about the broader implications of the attack, which doesn't bode well for the country's fragile security situation.

French president Francois Hollande was quick to condemn the bombing, and immediately dispatched his foreign minister (shown above) to Libya -- along with a team of French investigators to work with Libyan authorities to identify those responsible. He also described the attack as targeting not only France, but "all countries in the international community engaged fighting terrorism."

A massive car bomb targeted the French embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli this morning. The explosion occurred around 7 AM local time in the residential area of Hay al Andalus. Two French guards were wounded. So was a Libyan girl who lived in a nearby house. She had to be flown to Tunisia for specialized treatment.

The Libyan minister of interior, Ashour Shuwial, said the damage was extensive, but because the explosion occurred early in the morning, the number of causalities was minimal. That however, didn’t stop Libyans from worrying about the broader implications of the attack, which doesn’t bode well for the country’s fragile security situation.

French president Francois Hollande was quick to condemn the bombing, and immediately dispatched his foreign minister (shown above) to Libya — along with a team of French investigators to work with Libyan authorities to identify those responsible. He also described the attack as targeting not only France, but "all countries in the international community engaged fighting terrorism."

France has intensified security arrangements for its embassies across the North Africa and Sahel regions. Since France sent in troops to help fight an Islamist insurgency in Mali in January, the French diplomatic missions in the region have been on high alert. The Libyan government has also been working to improve security for all diplomatic missions in the country since the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 that killed four people, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

In general, the security situation in the country has been improving steadily since Ali Zeidan assumed office as prime minister in October 2012. Moreover, Libya’s Ministries of Defence and Interior have been working on plans to create a specialized diplomatic security unit as part of a larger overhaul of the country’s security services. According to the government’s plans, the diplomatic security unit will fall under the command of the army chief of staff, Youssef al-Mangoush. Yet the proposal is controversial — other military officers are increasingly calling for Mangoush’s dismissal, accusing him of corruption, incompetence, and failure to establish a strong national army.

Libyans have come to dread receiving news of violence against diplomatic missions or foreigners in their country. Following the morning’s attack, Libyans took to Twitter, Facebook, and TV to express condemnation of all acts of terror, with many describing the bombing of the French embassy as an "attack on all Libyans."

Online campaigns started shortly after the news of the bombing in Tripoli unfolded. A Facebook page was created calling for mass demonstrations throughout Libya and in Tripoli in particular to condemn all forms of terrorism, planned for Friday, April 26. In addition, an online petition was started, calling for the government to rebuild and strengthen the security sector and establish control over the country’s borders.

Many of the comments on Facebook and Twitter express concern about the country’s future economic prosperity. Attacks on foreign targets drive away much-needed foreign investment and deter international companies from returning to Libya to resume previously halted projects. Libyans are also concerned that if such violent incidents continue, foreign intervention will be necessary in order to bring the security situation under control.

Attention is now turning to how Prime Minister Zeidan’s government will act. The General National Congress (Libya’s interim legislature) has summoned the minister of interior and the intelligence chief to attend parliament for a hearing regarding the circumstances that led to the attack on the French embassy.

The minister of interior is expected to be grilled over the security arrangements for diplomatic missions in Libya. Libyans will judge Zeidan and his government, who have enjoyed huge public support thus far, by their success or failure in identifying those responsible — and bringing them to justice.

Mohamed Eljarh is the Libya blogger for Transitions. Read the rest of his posts here.  

Mohamed Eljarh is a writer for Foreign Policy's Democracy Lab and a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter at @Eljarh.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.