US pulls embassy staff from Libya
Tripoli, July 26, 2014
The United States evacuated its embassy in Libya on Saturday, driving its staff under heavy military guard across the border to Tunisia because of escalating clashes between rival militias in Tripoli, the US State Department said.
Security in the Libyan capital has deteriorated following two weeks of fighting between brigades of former rebel fighters who have exchanged rocket, cannon and artillery fire in southern Tripoli near the embassy compound.
"Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions," a US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.
F-16 fighters and Osprey aircraft had provided security during the five-hour drive to Tunisia and there were no incidents.
The UN has already pulled its staff out of the North African state, and Turkey has suspended its embassy operations because of the violence in Tripoli.
Turkey has removed about 700 personnel from the country, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters at the US ambassador's residence in Paris before holding talks there with Turkish and Qatari counterparts on the Middle East.
The State Department spokeswoman said staff would return to Tripoli once it was deemed safe. Until then, embassy operations would be conducted from elsewhere in the region and Washington.
The clashes for control of Tripoli International Airport are the latest eruption in a deepening rivalry among bands of ex-fighters who once battled side by side against Muammar Gaddafi, but have since turned against each other in the scramble for control. - Reuters