Group claiming ISIS ties behind embassy attack

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Group claiming ISIS ties behind embassy attack

Unidentified gunmen possibly backed by the militant group ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, fired on the South Korean Embassy in Tripoli on Sunday, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul, killing two local guards.

A Korean foreign affairs official said Sunday that a vehicle drove up to the Korean Embassy building about 1:20 a.m. local time.

From the unidentified car, an armed group fired about 40 rounds at the embassy from a machine gun, hitting three local police guards dispatched for the diplomatic corps in Tripoli, before fleeing from the scene.

The guards were killed on the spot and one was injured. They were found by residents of the neighborhood who heard gunshots and helped transfer the victims to the hospital. There were no Korean casualties.

Less than two hours after the attack, a group identifying itself as the Tripoli branch of ISIL declared on Twitter that it had “eradicated two guards at the Korean Embassy.”

“It is not clear whether the assault vehicle was targeting the embassy or the guards who were posted there,” said the Seoul official, adding that there was no damage to the two-story building other than on the outer wall. “After firing the shots, the vehicle did not attempt to break into the building.

The Twitter message did not include any other expression in regard to Korea, it just said that it eradicated the guards, thus it is unclear if they specifically targeted the Korean Embassy.”

The three guards were affiliated with Libya’s interior ministry. There are no other foreign embassies in the vicinity, which is a residential area.

Security around the Korean Embassy has been tightened with about 20 special police dispatched to the scene to guard the premises, the official said, adding that local police also would review CCTV footage of the attack.

The Foreign Ministry is considering various responses, such as temporarily relocating embassy operations.

Last August, most of the approximately 500 Korean residents of Libya were evacuated from the country. About 40 nationals remain.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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