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'Shredded bodies' in 'horrific' Benghazi blast

By Salma Abdelaziz and Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
May 14, 2013 -- Updated 0110 GMT (0910 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Apparent targeting of civilians shakes Libyans
  • NEW: State news quotes official as saying 13-year-old boy killed
  • The blast took place near a hospital in eastern Libya
  • Officials don't know who or what was targeted

(CNN) -- Children were among the victims Monday when a car bomb blew up near a hospital in the Libyan city of Benghazi, a security official told state TV.

"Children with shredded bodies and wounds to the head," Benghazi Security Directorate spokesman Tareq Khraz told state TV Libya Al Ahrar. "I cannot even describe the scene to you, but believe me, it was horrific."

The car bomb detonated near Al Jalaa hospital but not immediately in front of the building. Officials don't know at this point who or what was targeted.

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The blast destroyed eight cars and caused damage to nearby buildings, Khraz said.

Khraz said that at least 13 people were killed and more than 40 wounded. The hospital director, speaking on Ahrar TV, had a lower toll: three dead and 15 wounded.

Later Monday, state news agency LANA quoted Abdullah al-Fitouri, a health ministry official in eastern Libya, as saying that four people were killed, but three have not been identified because of the "gruesomeness of the incident." The fourth body was identified, LANA reported, as a 13-year-old boy.

Libya's parliament condemned the bombings and suspended its Tuesday session to allow members to head to Benghazi to take part in the funerals.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, standing alongside General National Congress President Mohammed al-Magariaf and other members, said that Monday's explosion comes after a string of similar acts but that security forces have not been able to take strict measures against such attacks.

According to a CNN journalist there, the bombing seems to have shaken Libyans fiercely because of its civilian victims.

Over the past 18 months, Benghazi, the birthplace of Libya's revolution that toppled longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi, has been the scene of attacks that mainly targeted security forces, Western diplomats and international organizations.

Gunmen attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in the city on September 11, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. The Obama administration's handling of that incident has come under much criticism and scrutiny.

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Most of the attacks in Benghazi have been blamed on extremist Islamist groups that have established a foothold in eastern Libya, according to Western intelligence officials who have spoken to CNN.

More than two years after the start of the revolution, the country is awash in weapons and hundreds of militias. Libyans frustrated with the security situation have called on the government to bolster security forces.

The government, in power since November, has been taking steps to curb militia groups and build a police and army force.

Libyan officials, particularly Zeidan, have said that securing and stabilizing the country remains a top challenge and a priority. But the process of doing that will take time and began only a few months ago, Zeidan said.

During the past two weeks, bombs have targeted a number of police stations in Benghazi. There were no casualties in these primarily overnight attacks.

Those attacks followed a few weeks of relative calm in a city that has been plagued by a fragile peace since the fall of Gadhafi, according to residents.

Benghazi residents said they felt that security had been improving before the most recent uptick in violence.

In light of the car bombing Monday, the Libyan military ordered army and pro-military militias to help Interior Ministry forces preserve security, the military command told state news.

And the U.N. Assistance Mission in Libya condemned the violence.

It issued this statement: "The Mission also underscores the need to support the legitimate authority of the State and enable it to shoulder its responsibilities in ensuring the safety and security of all citizens across Libya."

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