TRIPOLI, Libya — A suicide bomber attacked a training camp for Coast Guard cadets early on Thursday, killing at least 40 people in one of the deadliest bombings in Libya in recent memory, according to security officials.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing in the western coastal town of Zlitan.
An affiliate of the Islamic State, which is gaining strength in Libya and has its headquarters in the town of Surt (a few hours’ drive from Zlitan), has carried out similar attacks.
Capt. Adel Erhoma, a security officer in the town who visited the camp after the attack, said that the bombing had occurred early on Thursday as cadets gathered.
The attackers drove a water truck filled with explosives through the camp’s gates before detonating the explosives in a yard full of cadets, he said.
“There is nothing left from the truck but metal shrapnel,” he said, adding that hospitals were overwhelmed because more than 150 people had been wounded.
Counterterrorism officials have become increasingly alarmed about the Islamic State affiliate in Libya, saying its headquarters in Surt has swelled with foreign fighters, including veterans of the wars in Iraq and Syria.
Over the past few days, the affiliate has launched its most aggressive offensive yet to capture oil towns in central Libya. Days of fierce fighting have left at least five tanks full of crude oil on fire.