One year after the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, dozens of protesters tried to storm the Russian Embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli Wednesday as some attackers shot gunfire in the air.
Unlike during the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate which was is believed to have been linked to an Al Qaeda affiliate, the mob responsible for Wednesday’s attack on the Russian diplomatic mission appeared to be motivated by a desire to seek revenge over the killing of a Libyan army officer by a Russian woman.
Diplomatic sources in Libya told Reuters that about 60 people headed toward the embassy and tried to break in. AFP quoted witnesses who said that “demonstrators destroyed a car parked in front of the embassy compound and damaged the mission's entrance gate.”
The armed mob climbed over walls, broke down a metal gate and shot in the air, reported the Associated Press.
An Al Arabiya reporter on the scene said that the shooting of gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades could be heard around the embassy.
Itar Tass reported, "The attackers opened fire and tore the Russian flag." A Libyan source told the AP that a Russian flag hanging from the balcony of one of the buildings was taken down.
The mob was subsequently pushed back by Libyan security forces who fired shots in order to disperse the crowd.
Libyan officials told the Associated Press that one of the attackers was killed by the gunfire and four were wounded.
The Russian foreign ministry says no diplomats were injured and that embassy staff were protectively evacuated to the airport. According to Libya’s Lana news agency, the building sustained “minor damage.”
Reports have circulated in Libya in recent days about a Russian woman who killed a Libyan army officer in Tripoli. While some reports suggested the killing was over his role in the 2011 revolution against President Muammar Gaddafi’s rule, other reports said the woman was his wife and killed the man over a marital dispute.
AP reports that the woman who was arrested stands accused of killing the man and "writing offensive graffiti in his blood." She also reportedly stabbed and wounded the officer's mother.
“The attack was symptomatic of volatility in Libya two years after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. Clan and tribal rivalries, as well as Islamist groups, have flourished in the absence of strong central government. Security services, themselves riven, have struggled to maintain order,” Reuters writes.
A Libyan security official told Reuters that the attack did not appear to be directly linked to a militant group.
"The group attacked the compound as an act of revenge, because of the killing of the Libyan," the security source said.