TRIPOLI, Libya — A massive truck bomb exploded near a police base in the western Libyan town of Zliten on Thursday, killing at least 60 policemen and wounding around 200 others, officials said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but a local ISIS affiliate has been trying to gain a foothold in Zliten, spreading westward from its central stronghold of Sirte along the North African country's coast.
Hours after the blast, rescue crews at the scene had only managed to extract 60 bodies from the wreckage, said a hospital spokesman, Moamar Kaddi. Libyan officials said they believed there might be dozens more dead.
The police base, where about 400 recruits were training, was used by Libya's border police, a Zliten security official said. Border police foiled numerous human smuggling attempts off the coast of Zliten last year. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The oil-rich country is torn between an Islamist government based in the capital, Tripoli, and a rival, internationally recognized administration in the east. Meanwhile, a U.N.-supported unity government sits in neighboring Tunisia.
Residents in Libyan coastal cities have long expressed fears of the variety of smugglers and traffickers who run lucrative operations along the Mediterranean Sea. Authorities have echoed the same concerns, claiming they are unable to fully tackle these networks without international assistance.