Libyans gather at the site of a suicide truck bombing on a police school in Libya's coastal city of Zliten, some 170 kilometres (100 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, which killed at least 50 people on January 7, 2015, in the deadliest attack to hit the strife-torn country since its 2011 revolution. Picture: AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD TURKIA
Libyans gather at the site of a suicide truck bombing on a police school in Libya's coastal city of Zliten, some 170 kilometres (100 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, which killed at least 50 people on January 7, 2015, in the deadliest attack to hit the strife-torn country since its 2011 revolution. Picture: AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD TURKIA

AT LEAST 47 people were killed yesterday when Libya’s worst bomb attack since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi hit a police training centre as hundreds of recruits gathered for a morning meeting.

No group immediately claimed the attack in the town of Zliten, but suicide blasts and car bombings have increased in Libya as Islamist militants have taken advantage of the North African country’s chaos to expand their presence.

Mayor Miftah Hamadi said the bomb detonated as about 400 recruits were gathering in the early morning at the police centre in Zliten, a coastal town between the capital Tripoli and the port of Misrata.

"It was horrific, the explosion was so loud, it was heard from miles away," he said. " All the victims were young, and all about to start their lives."

Witnesses said residents were ferrying victims to Misrata hospitals in ambulances and cars, many with shrapnel wounds and some bodies too damaged to be identified.

Medical sources had initially said 65 people had been killed including some civilians. But Fozi Awnais, head of the crisis committee for the health ministry in Tripoli, said later that 47 people had died and 118 more were wounded.

Since a Nato-backed revolt ousted Gaddafi, Libya has slipped deeper into turmoil, with two rival governments and a range of factions locked in a struggle for control of the state and its oil wealth.

In the chaos, Islamic State (IS) militants have grown in strength, taking over the city of Sirte and launching attacks on oil fields.

IS fighters this week attacked two oil export terminals. An attack in February last year hit the eastern city of Qubbah when three car bombs killed 40 people in what officials described as a revenge attack for Egyptian air strikes on Islamist militant targets.

Western powers are pushing Libya’s factions to back a United Nations-brokered national unity government to join forces against Islamic State militants, but the agreement faces major resistance from several factions on the ground

For more than a year, an armed faction called Libya Dawn has controlled Tripoli, setting up its own self-declared government, reinstating the former parliament and forcing the recognised government to operate in the east of the country.

Western officials say forming a united government would be the first step in Libya seeking help to fight against IS, including training for a new army and possible air strikes against militant targets.

Reuters