Initial reports suggested three Libyan security guards were slain in the Corinthia Hotel assault while at least four foreigners were later killed. At least one of the dead was an American and another one was French. At least six people were wounded.
In a statement on Twitter, the Tripoli branch of the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group claimed responsibility for the violence. It said the siege was in honour of Abu Anas al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operative who died in custody earlier this month.
The UN Security Council condemned the “heinous” attack and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini called it “another reprehensible act of terrorism which deals a blow to efforts to bring peace and stability to Libya”, AFP reported.
The terrorist attack started with the detonation of a car packed with explosives outside the hotel. Gunmen wearing bullet-proof vests then stormed the building, opening fire haphazardly on workers and guests at the reception area on the ground floor.
The authorities posted pictures from the hotel cameras of the two terrorists who carried out the bombing while they were moving around the hotel.
The ISIS Tripoli branch also posted photos of the two attackers, one a young Tunisian and another a young Sudanese. The group described the Tunisian as the first “martyr” to enter the hotel, Abu Ibrahim al-Tounsi.
Meanwhile, the son of Abu Anas al-Libi, whose father died at a US hospital of liver cancer, disavowed the operation.
“ISIS is introducing itself with this carefully-planned operation,” said Army Chief of Staff Spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari.
“The Libyan national army has been fighting ISIS in Benghazi since the start of Operation Dignity,” al-Mesmari said. “The operation against the hotel won’t be the last one if we don’t repel them.”
Meanwhile, the Libyan parliament issued a statement condemning the attack on the hotel, saying that there was no doubt anymore that ISIS has started to officially operate in Tripoli.
The parliament urged Libyans to stand united against terrorism, which is threatening the country.
Najla al-Aqeeb, a 36-year-old journalist, said that “Some are still deceiving people, saying the perpetrators are the loyalists of former regime.”
“The Islamic State has arrived in Libya, and a group in Derna has already sworn allegiance to it. It is reportedly controlling Sirte and its south and other areas. This is in addition to the war it is fighting in Benghazi,” al-Aqeeb added. “The reason why the Islamic State penetrated [Libya] is the facilities it has had in Libya for a while with the weakness of the Libyan National Congress and the pressures and collusion of militias.”
“The result: Libya is now a hotbed of terrorism,” she noted.