Libya: Westerners Flee As Conflict Widens

Several Western governments have urged their citizens to leave Libya amid escalating violence after the United States’ evacuation of its embassy Saturday.

The U.K.’s Foreign Office issued a travel advisory Sunday, saying, “British nationals in Libya should leave now by commercial means.” The statement also urges “against all travel to Libya,” pointing to “ongoing and greater intensity of fighting in Tripoli and wider instability throughout Libya.”

As we reported Saturday, the U.S. has evacuated its embassy due to the violence. BBC News reported that Turkey has pulled about 700 of its staff from Libya, while the United Nations said earlier that it would be moving its staff out of the country.

The British Embassy in Libya is still open, albeit with fewer staff on hand.

According to The Guardian, British diplomats came under fire on Sunday when their vehicle was attacked by militants. Ambassador Michael Aron tweeted about the incident:

.@MwattinLeebi There was an attempted carjacking of a British Embassy convoy this morning. Shots were fired at our vehicles but all safe.

— Michael Aron (@HMAMichaelAron) July 27, 2014

Libya has seen violence escalate since parliamentary elections in June that ended with “steep losses for Islamist parties,” according to The Guardian. And the BBC points to “an estimated 1,700 different armed groups including state-affiliated forces and individual militias” contributing to the instability.

The situation has become so dire that the Libyan government has warned it could collapse, as we reported earlier.

But evacuations could be difficult as fighting continues at the Tripoli International Airport. That battle has raged since July 13, according to ABC News, and included the destruction of a $113 million passenger plane.

AlJazeera reports that France, Spain, Germany and Italy have also told their citizens to leave.

“All our nationals are invited to get in touch as quickly as possible with our embassy in Tripoli,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

The British Foreign Office’s advisory pointed to a strong precedent of danger to foreigners in Libya, along with the current turmoil, as a good reason to leave the country.

“Since December 2013, a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in Libya,” the statement said. “Further attacks against foreigners are likely and could be opportunistic.”

[photo: Bayou Buzz]