At Least 60 Killed in Attack in Libyan Police Training Center

Bombing is one of the deadliest since Islamist militants started expanding their presence in Libya; no group has taken responsibility for the attack.

The site of the truck bomb explosion at a police training center in Zliten, Libya, January 7, 2015.
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A massive truck bomb exploded near a police base in the western Libyan town of Zliten on Thursday, killing at least 60 policemen and wounding around 200 others, officials said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but a local Islamic State affiliate has been trying to gain a foothold in Zliten, spreading westward from its central stronghold of Sirte along the North African country's coast.

Hours after the blast, rescue crews at the scene had only managed to extract 60 bodies out of the wreckage, said a hospital spokesman, Moamar Kaddi. Libyan officials said they believed there might be dozens more dead.

The police base, where about 400 recruits were training, was used by Libya's border police, a Zliten security official said. Border police foiled numerous human smuggling attempts off the coast of Zliten last year. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Smugglers operating in Libya are notorious for responding with violence to any attempt to disrupt their lucrative operations, but there have been no reported incidents in which they used car bombs, suggesting that Islamic militants are more likely to have been behind Thursday's attack. Also, it was not immediately clear whether the attack was a suicide bombing, a hallmark method of Islamic militants.

In recent years, thousands of migrants seeking a better life in Europe sailed from Libya on rickety, overcrowded boats. Hundreds have drowned in those crossings.

Since the NATO-backed revolt ousted Gaddafi, Libya has slipped deeper into turmoil with two rival governments and a range of armed factions locked in a struggle for control of the North African state and its oil wealth.

In the chaos, Islamic State militants have grown in strength, taking over the city of Sirte and launching attacks on oilfields. Islamic State fighters this week attacked two major oil export terminals.

In February last year, three car bombs hit the eastern Libyan city of Qubbah, killing 40 people in what officials described as a revenge attack for Egyptian air strikes on Islamist militant targets.

Western powers are pushing Libya's factions to back a UN-brokered national unity government to join forces against Islamic State, but the agreement faces major resistance from several factions on the ground.