[Breaking] Islamic State Gunmen Storm Libya Hotel

The Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, Libya is currently under attack for the second time in its history, after gunmen detonated a car bomb outside the building and stormed the premises, Reuters reports. Security guards and civilians are confirmed as being among those killed, as a stand-off and possible hostage situation develops.

It has been suggested that one gunman has been arrested, but several others proceeded into the building after opening fire in the lobby of the luxury hotel, and clashing with security forces who were attempting to evacuate guests. Spokesman for the Tripoli Security Forces, Essam Naas has explained the situation to Reuters.

“The security forces are evacuating the guests floor-by-floor. There was shooting between the gunmen and the security forces. It is more than likely that there are hostages held by the gunmen on the 23rd floor.”

CTV News reports that Mahmoud Hamza, Commander of the Special Deterrent Force, has stated to the press that five foreigners have been killed, in addition to three security guards, but the situation is “under control.” An eyewitness described the attack to the BBC.

“I suddenly heard shots and saw people running towards me, and we all escaped from the back [of the hotel] through the underground garage. The hotel did a lockdown after that.”

The Guardian reports that, while the hotel seems to have been largely empty at the time of the attack, its significance as a preferred venue for foreign tourists and diplomats may be linked in terms of timing to the new round of Libya peace talks just beginning in Geneva with the U.N. The talks aim to resolve the conflict that has divided the country since two opposing governments have been battling for power. At the current time, the internationally recognised government is operating from Tobruk, while its opponent, Libya Dawn, has control of Tripoli.

However, The Guardian also indicates the possibility that the attack is retribution for the death of Abu Anas al-Libi, who recently died in U.S custody.

The Libya Observer tweeted what appears to be printed-out pictures of security camera images of the gunmen in the hallways of the hotel.

A spokesperson for the Corinthia Group in Malta – owners of the hotel – was quoted by CNN as saying, “We’re watching the situation very closely,” as the stand-off continues. The Corinthia Hotel in Libya came under attack once before, in 2013, when former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted.

[Image via Malta Today]