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Triple bomb blasts rip through eastern Libyan town al-Qubbah

Three suicide bombings, claimed by Islamic State fighters, kill over 30 people in eastern Libya and injured dozens more
An image by media outlet Welayat Tarablos allegedly shows members of the Islamic State (IS) militant group parading in a street in Libya's coastal city of Sirte on 18 February (AFP)

Libya’s eastern city of al-Qubbah was rocked by three suicide bombings today that claimed at least 31 lives.

A medical official told the Anadolu Agency that 65 others were injured and that four Egyptians were amongst those killed. The official also said that the casualty number is likely to rise.

“The death toll from the suicide bombings is likely to rise given that some have suffered critical injuries,” he said.

Army spokesman Mohammed Hegazi suspected that Islamic State militants (IS) were behind the attacks. The militants bombed a gas station packed with motorists in Qubbah, which lies 30 kilometres away from Derna, a stronghold of Libya’s IS offshoot.

The gas station is located near the town’s security headquarters. The spokesman for Libyan Army Chief of Staff Ahmed al-Mesmari said that in addition to the gas station, the other two bombings targeted a local police headquarters and the home of Aguila Saleh, the speaker of Libya’s internationally recognised House of Representatives.

It remains unclear whether Saleh was at home at the time of the blast. He later issued a televised message declaring a period of mourning for the victims.

“A seven day mourning period has been announced for the victims,” he said. “I think this operation was revenge for what happened in Derna,” he added, without elaborating.

The deadly bombings contributed to the heavy instability the country has been undergoing, particularly this week. On Sunday IS militants released a video of the mass beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, who were previously captured in two separate incidents in December and January.

The Egyptian government responded with airstrikes that they claimed were directed at IS targets in Derna. The Egyptian foreign ministry has urged the United Nations Security Council to support lifting an arms embargo on Libya to enable it to fight against IS within its borders. However, as western nations baulked at a military intervention in Libya, Egypt quickly issued a statement that dropped its call for such an act, and instead backed a political solution.

“There is no call for foreign military intervention,” the foreign ministry stated ahead of the submission of the UN draft on Libya.

“The draft resolution focuses on providing support for the legitimate Libyan government for fighting terrorism and enforcing law and order as well as tightening the ban on arms sales to extremist and radical groups,” said Bader Abdel-Ati, the Egyptian foreign ministry’s spokesman.

Four years after the overthrow and killing of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has spiralled into chaos. The country is currently divided between two governments vying for control, each with their own band of allied armed groups. The fractious fighting is mainly between the House of Representatives in the east, elected in June last year and backed by military man Khalifa Haftar, and in Tripoli the Libya Dawn group, which reconvened the defunct General National Congress (GNC) to form a “national salvation” government in August.