The United States has evacuated its embassy in Libya, driving
its staff under heavy military guard across the border to
Tunisia because of escalating clashes between rival militias
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
The United Nations 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, U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters at the U.S.
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
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.
Since the 2011 fall of Tripoli, fighters from the western
town of Zintan and allies have controlled the area including
the international airport, while rivals loyal to the port
city of Misrata had entrenched themselves in other parts of
Heavily armed, they have sided with competing political
forces vying to shape the future of Libya in the messy
transition since the end of Gaddafi's four-decade rule.