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Italy Closes Benghazi Consulate Following Gun Attack

Italy temporarily closed its consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday and pulled its staff out of the country following a failed gun attack.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 1/15/2013, 6:42 PM

wreckage of a police car following Benghazi attack
wreckage of a police car following Benghazi attack
Reuters

Italy temporarily closed its consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday and pulled its staff out of the country following a failed gun attack on the consul in eastern Libya, the foreign ministry said.

"The Italian government has temporarily suspended activity at the consulate in Benghazi for security reasons. The staff will return to Italy in the next few hours," the ministry said in a statement.

Consul Guido De Sanctis's bullet-proof car came under fire on Saturday in the latest of a series of attacks targeting foreign missions and security officials. The consul escaped unharmed.

Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi on Sunday condemned it as "a vile act of terrorism" and "an attempt to destabilise the institutions of the new Libya," AFP reported.

The incident is the latest in a series of attacks that continue to plague the eastern city of Benghazi, where the anti-Gaddafi uprising broke out nearly two years ago, but which has now turned into a hot spot for violence, suffused with armed factions.

In November, the city's police chief was shot dead, while last June, a convoy carrying the British ambassador was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade that injured two of his bodyguards.

The offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the city were also attacked last year, as was a convoy carrying the United Nations' former special envoy to Libya.

Most notable, however, was the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate, which resulted in the brutal death of American ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and four other Americans.