US embassy in Libya evacuated amid unrest

 

The U.S. embassy in Libya was evacuated with a military escort on Saturday, as chaos has descended on the capital of Tripoli.

A Pentagon spokesman said in a statement that military planes and spy vehicles assisted in the operation to protect American officials from a possible attack.

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“All embassy personnel were relocated, including the Marine security guards who were providing security at the embassy and during the movement. The embassy staff was driven in vehicles to Tunisia,” Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

“The mission was conducted without incident, and the entire operation lasted approximately five hours.”

In recent weeks, fighting between the military and militia groups in Libya has killed dozens, three years after the uprising that ousted former dictator Muammar Gaddafi from power. Since that uprising, the government has largely been unable to take control and provide security throughout the country.

Violence against American diplomats remains fresh for many officials, and the evacuation highlights the Obama administration’s concern about diplomats’ security.

In 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack at a CIA outpost in Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi. That attack is still a flashpoint on Capitol Hill, where the House has formed a special committee to investigate the incident. Democrats have criticized the panel as a political ploy.

“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. “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.”

The embassy evacuation was accompanied by a new warning from the State Department urging Americans not to travel to Libya and telling those already there to get out.

“The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable,” the State Department said in the warning. “The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution.”

Extremist groups have made “several specific threats” against Americans this year, it added, and many people have been able to get their hands on military weapons.