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Ear to the Ground

U.S. Embassy in Libya Evacuated Amid Clashes

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Posted on Jul 26, 2014

    Smoke rises from the direction of Tripoli airport in mid-July. Associated Press

The U.S. Embassy in Libya was shuttered and its diplomats evacuated under military escort to neighboring Tunisia on Saturday as what Secretary of State John Kerry called “free-wheeling militia violence” intensified.

The New York Times reported:

American personnel at the Tripoli embassy, which had already been operating with limited staffing, left the capital around dawn and traveled by road to neighboring Tunisia, with U.S. fighter jets and other aircraft providing protection, the State Department said. The withdrawal underscored the Obama administration’s concern about the heightened risk to American diplomats abroad, particularly in Libya where memories of the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in the eastern city of Benghazi are still vivid.

The evacuation was accompanied by a new State Department travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to go to the country and recommending that those already there leave immediately. “The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security,” it said. “Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including anti-aircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.”

Speaking Saturday in Paris where he was meeting with other diplomats on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kerry said the U.S. remains committed to the diplomatic process in Libya despite the suspension of embassy activities there. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the evacuated employees will continue to work on Libyan issues in Tunis, elsewhere in North Africa and Washington.

The State Department said embassy operations will resume when it is determined that the security situation has improved. Inter-militia violence in Tripoli has killed and wounded dozens of Libyans on all sides in recent weeks, with particularly intense fighting seen at the city’s airport.

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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