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Blast in Libyan capital near tower housing embassies

A loud explosion was heard near a building housing several foreign embassies and a hotel in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Tuesday, witnesses said.

The explosion occurred in the car park of a residential compound next to Tripoli Towers, where the British and Canadian embassies as well as several foreign airlines and other companies are based. It was also close to a large hotel used by foreign businessmen, the Corinthia.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blast, but a source working in the building said it could have been a car bomb.

"I heard an explosion and looked outside and saw a car in flames," he told Reuters.

A Reuters reporter on the scene, which was cordoned off by police, saw a burnt-out car.

A balcony of a nearby residential block was charred and holed. Security officials said the damage could have been caused by a rocket-propelled grenade, although there was no confirmation of this.

The blast occurred in mid-afternoon, when many offices have already emptied during the fasting month of Ramadan.

There has been a spate of bombings in recent months in Libya - in April the French embassy in Tripoli was bombed, while in the volatile eastern city of Benghazi, four Americans - including the ambassador - were killed on September 11 last year.

Armed violence and lawlessness caused in part by militia groups who often do as they please has hobbled governance in wide areas of the oil-producing North African state following the 2011 war that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

[Source: Reuters, Tripoli, 23Jul13]

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