The United States suspended operations at its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli.
The State Department has shut down the U.S. embassy in Libya and evacuated American staffers there as the security situation in the Libyan capital city of Tripoli deteriorates from increasingly intense clashes between rival militias.
The department reported in a statement that American embassy staff left Tripoli on Saturday and traveled overland to neighboring Tunisia. Embassy operations in Tripoli will be suspended until the security situation improves, it said. Tripoli has been embroiled for weeks in inter-militia violence that has killed and wounded dozens on all sides. The fighting has been particularly intense at the city’s airport where rival militias have been fighting. About 90 percent of the aircraft parked at the airport were destroyed or rendered inoperable during a July 14, 2014 conflict. The control tower was also damaged and new equipment is needed re-open the airport.
Members of the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) fought to seize control of the airport from the Zintan militia. The Zintanis and their allies in Tripoli, who are loosely aligned with the more nationalist National Forces Alliance led by a former Gaddafi official, remain in control of the airport.
Libya is considering a deployment of international force to re-establish security amid a flare-up of violence in Tripoli which saw dozens of rockets destroy most of the civilian aircraft fleet at its international airport.
VIDEO: Aftermath of the attack on Tripoli International Airport.
The suspension of operations is the second time in a little more than three years that Washington has closed the embassy in Libya. In February 2011, the embassy in Tripoli suspended operations amid the uprising that eventually toppled longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. Libyan leaders have struggled to bring stability since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011, with rival armed groups competing for power.
Turkey has also suspended their embassy operations in Tripoli, Libya.
There was no news of the evacuation of the Libya embassy on the official Twitter account nor the official Facebook page for U.S. Department of State.
Most Recent Libya Travel Warning May 24, 2014 …
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Libya and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Libya depart immediately. Due to security concerns, the Department of State has limited staffing at Embassy Tripoli and is only able to offer very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Libya. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on December 12, 2013.
The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution. Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation. Crime levels remain high in many parts of the country. In addition to the threat of crime, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in Libya. Extremist groups in Libya have made several specific threats this year against U.S. government officials, citizens, and interests in Libya. Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S. government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death. U.S. citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately.
Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country and attacks by armed groups can occur in many different areas; hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire. Checkpoints controlled by militias are common outside of Tripoli, and at times inside the capital. Closures or threats of closures of international airports occur regularly, whether for maintenance, labor, or security-related incidents.
The status of the country’s interim government and the General National Congress both remain uncertain. Heavy clashes between rival factions erupted in May 2014 in Benghazi and other eastern cities. In Tripoli, armed groups attacked the General National Congress (GNC) May 18 as part of a campaign to influence and intimidate institutions of government. Heavy fighting flared for a day, resulting in deaths and injuries, followed by tense posturing between rival militia groups. This posturing has the potential to continue and reignite fighting at any time. State security institutions lack basic capabilities to prevent conflict. As a result, the potential for political violence continues, centered around specific events, including elections for a new General National Congress and appointment of a new government, both anticipated for as early as June.
U.S. citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations, as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens traveling to or remaining in Libya, despite this Travel Warning, should use caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, and maintain security awareness at all times.
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Libya enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
The Embassy’s website includes consular information and the most recent messages for U.S. citizens in Libya. U.S. citizens in need of emergency assistance should call 091-220-5203 within Libya or 218-91-220-5203 if dialing from outside of Libya.
For information on “What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis,” please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Emergencies and Crisis link. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
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