By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW/, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Russia’s embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli came under fire on Wednesday and a group of people tried to force their way into the compound, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
A diplomatic source in Libya said security guards fired shots to disperse about 60 people that had approached the embassy. The compound was quickly secured by guards and according to the Foreign Ministry no diplomats were wounded in the incident.
The attack was symptomatic of the volatility of the country 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, and security services, themselves riven, have struggled to maintain order.
There have been a number of attacks on Western diplomats by militant groups, the worst being directed against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where the American Ambassador was killed last year.
“In Tripoli ...a shooting occurred and there was an attempt to enter the territory of the Russian embassy in Libya,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told Russian state television.
“According to the most preliminary information there were no injuries among members of the Russian diplomatic mission.”
The reason for the attack was not immediately clear, but one diplomatic source said it did not appear to be directly linked to any militant group. He said a Ukrainian woman had killed a Libyan on Tuesday and then sought refuge in the Russian embassy.
The crowd had then come to protest and look for her.
The Russian Itar Tass news agency cited unnamed sources as saying that the embassy territory was now fully under control.
“In the evening hours, an armed attack was carried out on the diplomatic mission and an attempt was undertaken to get inside. The attackers opened fire and tore the Russian flag.”
The sources said Libyan authorities were searching for the gunmen.
Militants linked to al Qaeda affiliates attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and killed Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.
Western powers, using air power, led the military campaign that ultimately toppled Gaddafi. Russia, however, did not take part in the action and condemned what it called the West’s abuse of a United Nations Security Council to intervene.