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BENGHAZI, Libya -- A bomb-laden vehicle exploded Saturday outside a shopping mall in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, killing at least three U.N. staff members, a spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general said.

The attack came even as the country's warring sides said they accepted a cease-fire proposed by the U.N. aimed at halting combat in the capital Tripoli during an upcoming Muslim holiday.

Health officials said the blast took place outside Arkan Mall in the Hawari neighborhood, where people were gathering for shopping a day before the Eid al-Adha holiday begins. The Benghazi municipal council said the attack targeted a convoy for the U.N. Support Mission in Libya.

The site of the attack is close to offices of the mission in Libya. The officials said two of the dead hailed from Libya and Fuji.

The blast also wounded nine people, the health officials said.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in a statement that three U.N. workers were among the wounded.

"The Secretary-General extends his deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wishes a swift recovery to all the injured. He calls on the Libyan authorities to spare no effort in identifying and swiftly bringing to justice the perpetrators of this attack," Dujarric said.

He also said the secretary-general urged "all parties to respect the humanitarian truce during Eid al-Adha and return to the negotiating table to pursue the peaceful future the people of Libya deserve."

The U.N. special envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, condemned what he called a "cowardly attack."

"This attack will not discourage us, nor will it prevent us from carrying on with our duties to bring about peace, stability and prosperity to Libya and its people," he said in a statement.

Salame said the commitment of the parties of the U.N.-proposed cease-fire in Tripoli "sends an irrevocable message that the blood of Libyans, and UN staff ... was not shed in vain in this heinous explosion."

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting late Saturday afternoon on the situation.

Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita told members the attack took place in an area "supposedly under full security control" of the self-styled Libyan National Army of Gen. Khalifa Hifter.

She said the attack "highlights the continued danger of terrorism across the country," and it confirms that the latest hostilities are creating a vacuum "easily exploited by radical elements that strive on chaos and violence."

Keita said the U.N. doesn't intend to evacuate from Libya and she expressed hope that both sides will abide by their commitment to the Eid al-Adha cease-fire.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came just a month after two bomb-laden vehicles exploded in Benghazi, the stronghold for the Libyan National Army. The July attack killed at least four people and wounded 33 others.

Last week Salame had urged the Libyan National Army and the U.N.-supported government to declare a cease-fire for the holiday.

If it takes place, the cease-fire would be the first since the Libyan National Army launched a surprise military offensive on April 4 aimed at capturing Tripoli, ushering in fierce battles with militias loosely allied with a U.N.-supported administration in the capital.

The battle for Tripoli has killed more than 1,100 people, mostly combatants, and has displaced more than 100,000 civilians.

Thousands of African migrants captured by Libyan forces supported by the European Union are trapped in detention centers near the front lines.

An airstrike on one facility early last month killed more than 50 people, mainly migrants held in a hangar that collapsed on top of them.

Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed long-ruling dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Armed groups have proliferated, and the country has emerged as a major transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty for a better life in Europe.

A Section on 08/11/2019

Print Headline: Libya bomb kills 3 U.N. workers

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