US Embassy in Libya Evacuated As Militia Violence Intensifies

Speaking from Paris on Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. Embassy in Libya has temporarily been shuttered and evacuated as "free-wheeling militia violence" intensifies near Tripoli. All diplomats have been moved to neighboring Tunisia.

Marie Harf, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said that the growing violence among warring militias in Tripoli has made it unsafe for diplomats at the embassy.

Via the AP:

"Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly," Harf said. "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."

The U.S. State Department has also issued a travel warning to Americans planning on visiting Libya, noting that the situation in Libya is currently "unpredictable and unstable." Any Americans currently in Libya are being encouraged to leave immediately.

A report in the Associated Press reveals that the diplomats were evacuated by a U.S. military escort at dawn:

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, according to Harf. As the evacuation was underway, residents of the city reported in real time on social media that American military aircraft flew overhead while U.S. soldiers escorted a convoy of vehicles out of town. The State Department would not confirm the evacuation until all staffers were safely in Tunisia.

Fighting between militia groups has been particular severe near the Tripoli Airport, leaving at least 47 dead in the past month. Flights at both major airports in Libya have been stopped.

[Image via AP]