Security personnel stand guard in front of the British consulate office after an attack on a British diplomatic convoy, in Benghazi
A convoy carrying Britain's ambassador to Libya was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on Monday, injuring two of his bodyguards in the most serious of a spate of assaults on foreign targets.
The attackers ambushed the ambassador's convoy metres (yards) from the consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, firing the weapon at the front of one of the vehicles and blowing out the windscreen, local security officials said.
It was the fourth attack in three months on a foreign mission in the city, the birth-place of the revolt which last year overthrew Muammar Gaddafi. Some analysts say the violence is the work of Islamist militants exploiting the security vacuum left after Gaddafi's fall, reports Reuters.
"A convoy carrying the British ambassador to Libya was involved in a serious incident," said a spokeswoman for the British embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
"Two close protection officers were injured in the attack but all other staff are safe and uninjured ... We are working with the Libyan authorities to establish who was responsible for the attack."
A Reuters’ reporter at the scene of the attack, in Benghazi's al-Rabha neighbourhood, said police had cordoned off the area with waist-high concrete blocks. A damaged but still intact car windscreen could be seen lying on the ground, along with fragments of glass.
Accounts from local security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ambassador and his convoy had visited a nearby restaurant for lunch and were returning to the consulate when the attackers struck.
A source from the government's high security committee said the rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the front of the vehicle. It was not immediately clear if the ambassador, Dominic Asquith, was in the car which was hit.
Another Libyan security official described one occupant of the convoy as being injured in the shoulder. "There was a lot of blood in the car that took him to hospital," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
However, the high security committee source said: "The wounds are minor, it's not serious."
The fact that the casualties were not worse suggested that the British diplomats were using armoured vehicles, common practice for Western missions in Libya.
Benghazi was where the uprising broke out last year which later ended Gaddafi's 42-year rule, but it is now a hot spot for violence, with arms readily available and state security forces struggling to assert their authority.
Monday's attack happened five days after an explosive device was dropped from a passing car outside the offices of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. The blast that followed slightly damaged the gate in front of the building.