A bomb blast outside a hospital in the Libyan city of Benghazi could have been an accident, ministers said Tuesday, as the health ministry gave a “definitive” casualty toll of three dead and 14 wounded.
Ministers said they were now considering the possibility that the day-time blast on Monday outside Benghazi’s Al-Jala hospital was not a deliberate car bombing as previously thought.
“All the signs point to an accidental explosion,” Interior Minister Ashur Shwayel said at a press conference in Benghazi.
Justice Minister Salah al-Mirghani said it was “too early to draw any conclusions,” but “among the theories being looked at, there is the possibility that this accident was not premeditated and that the explosion was not intended for this location”.
According to a preliminary report by the army, the car was not stationary when it exploded and it was transporting explosives used to make anti-tank mines.
The two people inside the car when it exploded have not yet been identified, the justice minister said.
The health ministry, meanwhile, said in a statement that it has reached a “definitive toll” of three dead and 14 others wounded in the explosion.
On Monday, Libyan officials gave contradictory reports on the number of people killed.
Deputy Interior Minister Abdallah Massoud pointed to “15 dead and at least 30 wounded,” while the health ministry said four people had died and six were wounded.
Meanwhile, an official at the Benghazi police directorate, Tarak al-Kharaz, told Al-Ahrar television that 13 people had died and 41 more were wounded.
Immediately after the explosion, Libyan authorities denounced it as a “terrorist act”, and an “odious crime”.
Witnesses said children were among the casualties of Monday’s blast, which also wrecked cars and scattered debris around the area.
Dozens of people, many of them youths, rushed to the scene, some volunteering to gather body parts and place them in plastic bags, AFP journalists reported.
On Tuesday, funerals and prayers were held for the victims attended by dozens of Benghazi residents angry at the lack of security in their city.
Benghazi, Libya’s second city, has seen a wave of violence in recent weeks.
But previous attacks, bombings or assassinations, have rocked the city by night or in the early hours when the streets are empty, and have hit non-civilian targets, especially security officials.
Four police stations have been bombed in Benghazi since last Friday, causing damage but no casualties.
Authorities blame radical Islamists for the violence, including a deadly attack in September against the US consulate in Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.