Gunmen from the Islamic State group in Libya have attacked the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, Libya, and taken hostages there, the SITE Intelligence monitoring group said Tuesday, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). The hotel is reportedly popular among local officials and foreign diplomats.
At least three guards at the hotel were killed by five masked gunmen who stormed in, The Associated Press reported, adding that the attackers were wearing bulletproof vests and opened fire randomly at staff in the lobby. SITE said that the operation was dubbed the “Battle of Abu Anas al-Libi.” Several groups in Libya have sworn allegiance to ISIS but it's not clear which group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack.
"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," a civilian who witnessed the attack, said according to BBC, which added, citing a security official, that the hotel had received threats some days ago, warning managers "to empty the building."
A car bomb also reportedly went off in the hotel’s parking lot but details about casualties were not immediately clear, Reuters reported. According to AP, the bomb exploded as the hotel's employees and guests fled the luxury hotel through the back-entrance, which opened into the parking lot. A security unit opened fire on the militants, the AP report added.
The hotel reportedly housed Italian, British and Turkish guests at the time of the attack, but an employee said that it was mostly empty at the time, AP reported. No details were immediately available on who the hostages were and how many of them were being held by the gunmen.
A security official also reportedly said that two commercial buildings behind the hotel were evacuated for security reasons.
The country has been in political turmoil since the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Several tribes are looking to gain power over the country while two rival governments and parliaments preside over the country’s eastern and western regions.