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Saturday October 12, 2013 MYT 12:15:10 AM
Saturday October 12, 2013 MYT 12:15:14 AM
by ayman al-warhalli AND firas bosalum
People look at a damaged car outside the Swedish consulate after a car bomb explosion, in Benghazi October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Car bombs exploded outside the Swedish consulate and a mosque in Benghazi on Friday, a day after the brief abduction of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan showed the extent of Libya's turmoil two years after Muammar Gaddafi's fall.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks that damaged buildings and wounded one person in the north African country where a weak government is struggling to control militias and radical Islamists.
On Thursday, former rebels now on the government payroll kidnapped Zeidan from his hotel in the capital Tripoli, saying they were angry at reports the government had been informed in advance of a U.S. raid to snatch an al Qaeda suspect there.
That raid prompted calls by Islamist militants for revenge attacks.
The front of the Swedish consulate and neighbouring buildings were damaged by Friday's blast but no one was hurt, Sweden said.
"The facade and windows were damaged but no staff was injured. The consulate is closed on Fridays," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ursula Ahlen said.
Sweden is one of the few countries that still have a mission in Benghazi. Its building also houses the office of Finland's honorary consul.
The coastal city, where many people demand autonomy from Tripoli, has seen a string of attacks on foreign missions and companies as well as assassinations of army and police officers.
In another part of Benghazi, a car bomb wounded a preacher as he came out of a mosque after Friday prayers, a security source said, adding that the attack was probably part of a rivalry between armed groups.
Zeidan, who was released by his captors on Thursday after a few hours, is under public pressure for failing to improve public services since Gaddafi's overthrow. He has faced a wave of strikes and protests that have close most Libyan oil ports.
To help maintain security, the government relies on militias made up of thousands of Libyans who took up arms against Gaddafi. But the rival groups have often become security threats themselves.
This is especially true for Benghazi, where the 2011 revolt began and where the U.S. ambassador was killed during an Islamist assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission a year ago.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Firas Bosalum; additional reporting by Niclas Pollard in Stockholm and Andu Ritsuko in Helsinki; Writing by Patrick Markey and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Alison Williams and Robin Pomeroy)
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