Gov’t denounces attack in Tripoli

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Gov’t denounces attack in Tripoli

The Korean government on Monday denounced a deadly attack over the weekend on its embassy in Tripoli, Libya, by a group claiming to have ties to the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group.

The government convened a meeting with related agencies in Seoul on the same day to consider temporarily vacating the embassy in Tripoli and to discuss measures to protect Korean citizens in Libya and other unstable regions in Africa and the Middle East.

“The government strongly condemns the armed attack on the South Korean Embassy in Libya on April 12,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Noh Kwang-il said in a statement on Monday, offering “deep condolences to the bereaved families.”

“We reaffirm our firm stance that an attack on or violence against a diplomatic mission cannot be justified for any reason,” Noh continued.

On Sunday, an unidentified vehicle drove up to the Korean Embassy in Tripoli, where gunmen fired about 40 machine gun rounds at the building. Two Libyan police officers dispatched to guard the diplomatic mission were killed and another injured.

There were no Korean casualties. The embassy’s outer wall suffered damage in the shooting. The vehicle fled from the scene.

Less than two hours later, a group identifying itself as the Tripoli branch of ISIS claimed it had been behind the attack, noting on Twitter that it had “eradicated two guards at the Korean Embassy,”

Just hours after the attack on the Korean Embassy, a bomb went off early Monday at the Moroccan Embassy in central Tripoli.

There were no reported casualties from the blast, the result of a bomb placed in a bag outside the embassy’s gate. It is currently inactive, and some cars were reported to have been damaged in the incident.

Jihadi militants also claimed over Twitter to have been behind the Monday attack.

Morocco has hosted United Nations-backed talks between rival Libyan government factions.

Seoul officials have yet to confirm whether the gunmen specifically targeted the Korean Embassy.

Deputy Minister for Overseas Koreans Lee Key-cheol presided over the meeting in Seoul to assess the safety situation in Libya and consider temporarily transferring its two Korean diplomats and one staff member in Tripoli to its office in Tunisia.

Last June, amid instability in Libya, the Korean government established a temporary office for the Libyan Embassy in Tunisia. The three officials have been traveling between Tunis and Tripoli to oversee protection of 35 Korean citizens in Libya.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released a joint statement with the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom urging Libya’s rival factions to cease fighting and threatened sanctions against parties that jeopardize the country’s peace and security.

“Extremists use the lack of order to their advantage, causing further suffering and bloodshed both inside and outside Libya,” Kerry said in the statement.

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

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