U.S. evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

Smoke rises over the Airport Road area after heavy fighting between rival militias broke out near the airport in Tripoli on Friday. Reuters

WASHINGTON—As fighting between warring militias in Libya drew closer to Tripoli, the Obama administration said on Saturday it had evacuated its personnel from the city.

Officials said the evacuation was done over land, with the State Department driving personnel from the American embassy in Tripoli to Tunisia.

The evacuation took place without incident, but U.S. military provided security, flying fighter jets, surveillance planes and positioning response forces in V-22 tilt rotor aircraft in the area to respond to potential threats, officials said.

The State Department said the embassy move was temporary.

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“Due to the continuing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” Marie Harf, a State department spokeswoman, said.

The Obama administration was accused of not moving quickly enough to evacuate its diplomats in Libya ahead of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on its facilities in Benghazi that killed the Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

In recent months, the Libyan government has struggled to clamp down on violence from militias and keep control of the country.

The evacuation on Saturday took about five hours, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

Adm. Kirby said the Marine Corps security guards who provide security at the embassy were also relocated. He said the evacuation was done at the request of the embassy.

Ms. Harf said that embassy personnel would return to Libya when the security situation improves. U.S. diplomatic staff will operate out of Washington and other embassies in the region until the State Department determines they can return to the embassy in Tripoli.

More details and photos at The Daily Mail.