This appears to have been a minor and ineffective attack, employing very small explosive charges set inside or underneath two or three cars in the parking lot of the Tibesti Hotel, the place where most diplomatic organizations that are in contact with the rebel's National Transitional Council have set up shop. (Check the flags in the photo above to see which countries have a presence there.) Rebel spokesmen have said that no one was killed or injured.
Here's the New York Times report, Bomb Explodes Outside Hotel in Rebel-Held City in Libya:
BENGHAZI, Libya — An explosion struck Wednesday evening in a parking lot outside a Benghazi hotel that was a central meeting place for Libya rebel leaders, diplomats and journalists.
It was not immediately clear whether there were any injuries. Footage on the satellite channel Al Jazeera showed two cars on fire, and at least three others that appeared to be badly damaged, suggesting the blast was caused by a car bomb.
The parking lot stretches in front of the Tibesti Hotel, where diplomats, including the United States envoy, have been staying while in Benghazi, the eastern Libyan city that has been the base of the uprising against the Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. But the hotel is only lightly guarded by uniformed security guards and soldiers.
The United Nations and other groups also keep offices in the hotel, which has become a hub of power for the rebel leadership. The hotel coffee shop serves as a favorite spot for deal-making and negotiations.
In recent days, the European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, along with the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, held news conferences at the hotel.
ABC News has a few details:
Abdul-Basit al-Shihida, a senior rebel security official, blamed Gadhafi agents. "The initial investigation showed that it was a TNT bomb that was thrown under the car. We have video from the hotel that shows the cars." The video did not show anyone throwing a bomb, but he insisted the bomb, about 200 grams (7 ounces) of TNT, was not inside the vehicle.
Driver Ahmed Gulak, 35, driver, said he was in the hotel when bomb went off. "I heard an explosion and went out to see what happened. I saw two cars on fire," he said, blaming agents of the Gadhafi regime. He said he drove his own car away from the scene despite a shattered windshield.
The photos indicate how small the bomb blasts were, because there appears to be no collateral damage around the burning cars. Note in particular the unbroken glass globes on the parking lot's light poles. That substantiates the rebel security official's estimate that the explosive charges were in the 200 gram range.
My bottom line: It wasn't much of an attack, but it demonstrates that Qaddafi loyalists are present and willing to act against the international community in Benghazi. And, of course, it underlines the lack of security around those international entities.
Here's hoping that the U.S. and other nations with diplomats in the Tibesti will step up their game. If they have sufficient national interest to send representatives to Benghazi in the first place, then they have sufficient interest to see that those representatives are reasonably well protected.