CAIRO (AP) — Three car bombs including one driven by a suicide attacker struck Wednesday in two eastern Libyan cities that are temporary homes to the nation's elected parliament and government, killing five and injuring 21 others, officials said.
The near-simultaneous attacks, blamed on Islamic militants, brought Libya's violence for the first time to the relatively peaceful eastern cities where the elected authorities took refuge after Islamist-allied militias took over the capital Tripoli and the second-largest city, Benghazi, in August. Hundreds from the two sides have been killed in recent months.
The two car bombs went off in Tobruk, in front of an oil institute, army spokesman Mohammed Hegazi said. One person was killed and at least 21 were injured, including three in critical condition, according to hospital records.
Hegazi said the attack was meant to "terrorize" state institutions and the parliament, as well as deliver a "we are here" message. He blamed militants in the eastern Islamist stronghold of Darna who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Simultaneously another suicide car bomber hit an air base used for civilian flights in the eastern city of Bayda, which is home to the Libyan government, killing four troops, officials said.
Shortly after the bombings, the Libyan army launched several airstrikes on Darna, killing three militia fighters, the officials added.
Three of the city's anti-Islamist activists were found beheaded in Darna on Tuesday, after voicing support for the government's battle against militias, according to an activist.
The officials and the activist spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
After the takeover of Tripoli and Benghazi, the elected parliament was forced to relocate to Tobruk. In Tripoli, Islamist-allied militias from the powerful western city of Misrata revived an old parliament and formed a self-proclaimed government in the capital. Each claims to be the country's legitimate leadership, while their allied forces battle on the ground.
The United Nations Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon has been shuttling between eastern and western Libya to try strike a compromise.