Fighters have stormed Libya’s foreign ministry in the capital, Tripoli, killing at least three people, including a senior civil servant, the authorities said.
Ten other people were wounded in what the foreign ministry said was a suicide attack carried out by “terrorists” on Tuesday.
A car bomb exploded near the ministry, prompting security forces to rush to the scene, said special forces spokesman Tarak al-Dawass, accusing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group of being responsible.
A suicide bomber then blew himself up on the second floor of the building while a second attacker died when the suitcase he was carrying exploded, he said.
A third assailant, who was unarmed and wearing a bulletproof vest, was killed by security forces outside, Dawass added.
A civil servant who headed a department in the foreign ministry was among the dead, security sources said.
Plumes of smoke were seen rising from the building as ambulances, paramedics and security forces gathered outside.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Reporting from Tripoli, Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahid said a security official was also killed during Tuesday’s attack.
Foreign Minister Mohemed al-Taher was not inside the building during the attack as he was accompanying Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj during a visit to the western city of Zawiya, according to a source from the ministry.
The ministry denounced the attack on its employees saying, “The Libyan people are waging a war on terrorism on behalf of the world.”
Suicide bombers have targeted a number of Libya’s vital institutions as armed groups take advantage of the chaotic political situation.
A source from Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade, one of the strongest armed groups in the capital, told Reuters their spokesman, Abdulrahman Mazoughi, died in the attack.
Libya’s security forces cordoned off the area and took control of all the buildings around the foreign ministry headquarters, Abdelwahid said.
All individuals and employees have been ordered to evacuate the buildings immediately, he said.
“The situation has relatively calmed down after security forces took control of the building. According to reports from the foreign ministry, the foreign attackers stormed into the building, started shooting, heavy gunfire was heard and the special deterrence forces took control of the situation,” Abdelwahid said.
Libya has been torn apart by power struggles and undermined by chronic insecurity since the killing of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The country has at least two rival administrations: one based in the capital Tripoli, recognised by the United Nations, and another in the eastern city of Tobruk. There are also dozens of armed groups vying for power and state wealth.