A car exploded in Benghazi during Khalifa Mismari’s funeral, killing four. Khalifa Mismari was a top figure in Libya’s special forces, which are sometimes called Al-Saiqa (“Thunderbolt”). Al-Saiqa predates the death of Muammar Gaddafi, and was since the 1990s involved in fighting the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), long listed by the United States as an al-Qaeda affiliate. LIFG was later de-listed by the Obama State Department following the Obama administration’s decision to back the overthrow of Gaddafi. Al-Saiqa currently forms a special operations branch of the Libyan National Army (LNA).
Reuters reports that Wanis Bukhamada, the current head of al-Saiqa, was attending the funeral and was the apparent target of the bombing. They report him as uninjured. The Security Studies Group’s LNA contacts confirm both that he was thought to have been the target of an assassination attempt, and that he survived unscathed.
Our contacts in the LNA also state that the bomb was remote-detonated rather than a suicide device. That would tend to argue against Islamic State in Libya (ISIL) involvement given their recent preference for so-called martyrdom attacks.
This is not proof-positive that ISIL was not involved. Remote-detonated VBIEDs were regularly used by al Qaeda in Iraq (AQIZ), which was a predecessor organization to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to which ISIL has sworn and recently re-affirmed its loyalty. However, building and operating such devices requires a technician with greater proficiency than a simple suicide device that can be triggered by the operator. AQIZ had a sufficient number of these that they sometimes used remote detonation even on suicide vests, in order to ensure that the operator wouldn’t change his mind at the last moment, as well as to allow them to employ unwilling operators. (Imperial Japan likewise had wheels that jettisoned from kamikaze planes on takeoff, for similar reasons.) ISIL’s relative preference for actual suicides may be indicative either of additional devotion, or of a local lack of technically savvy personnel.
Investigations into the apparent attempted assassination, and the murders that resulted from it, are underway.