Police car attacked in Libya's Benghazi, one wounded

BENGHAZI, Libya Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:11pm GMT

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - At least one police officer was wounded when attackers threw a hand grenade at a patrol car in the east Libyan city of Benghazi on Monday in the latest in a series of assaults on security officials, the force said.

The city was the seat of the uprising that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi more than a year ago, and the government has struggled to control rival armed factions there ever since.

The police car was parking near a crossroads close to the centre of Libya's second biggest city when it came under attack from a passing car, a police source said.

"A hand grenade was thrown from that car close to the police car and at least one person was injured," the source said.

Italian officials said on Monday they were temporarily withdrawing foreign staff from their consulate in the city as they assessed the security situation after a gun attack on their consul.

Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Guido De Sanctis's armoured car on Saturday. He was unhurt but the attack was a reminder of the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission there that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

American officials say militants with ties to al Qaeda affiliates were most likely involved in that attack.

Benghazi, like much of Libya, is awash with weapons, and the city has also seen recent attacks on British, Red Cross and United Nations interests.

To keep a degree of order, Libya's government relies on numerous militias made up of thousands of Libyans who took up arms against Gaddafi. The groups provide what passes for official security but also what poses the main threat to it.

In November, the city's police chief was shot dead and there have been several attacks on police.

(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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