Europe urges citizens to leave Libya's Benghazi

Jan 25 2013, 10:01 IST
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Europe urges citizens to leave Libya's Benghazi. (Reuters) Europe urges citizens to leave Libya's Benghazi. (Reuters)
SummaryEuropean countries urged their nationals to leave the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Thursday, with Britain citing a "specific and imminent" threat to Westerners days after a deadly attack by Islamist militants in neighbouring Algeria.

"that would jeopardise their source". The school has six British nationals, four of whom, he said, were trying to leave Libya.

"I am going to stay for a while. We will try to get the school going with the staff we have left, but it is a day-by-day situation," he said.

Last week Italy suspended activity at its Benghazi consulate and withdrew staff after a gun attack on its consul.

"The situation in Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) is not just worrying, it is incredibly worrying," a Western diplomat said. "But in light of the events recently, this could be a precautionary measure."

With the country awash with weapons and its shaky nascent institutions struggling to rein in armed groups, Libyans are keen to ensure Western fears do not drag down its economy.

The bulk of Libya's oil wealth, around 80 percent, is located in the east of the country, but the oil installations are far from Benghazi and oil is not piped through there.

"The British ambassador told me about this decision yesterday and I told him to give me reasons for this fear, and he said we have threats and fears for our people there. I asked him for something written, and he still hasn't provided it," deputy Interior Minister Khadrawi told Reuters.

"They have the right to be fearful for their people and it is our duty to protect them and our citizens. The threats they are speaking of, we are taking seriously. The British decision should have been taken together with the Libyan government."

Cameron's spokesman batted away accusations that Britain's warnings undermined confidence in Libya after Gaddafi and said that "progress can, is being made in Libya".

A LOT OF THREATS

Benghazi has been the scene of power struggles between various armed Islamist factions. US intelligence officials say Islamist militants with ties to al Qaeda affiliates were most likely involved in the deadly Sept. 11 assault on the US mission in the city, Libya's second biggest.

Libya, whose vast desert borders are hard to police, fears that France's military operation in Mali could fan Islamist flames at home, and Libya's foreign minister called for United Nations peacekeepers to be deployed in Mali to prevent uprooted fighters destabilising countries nearby.

Security experts said the European warnings were probably in response to threats from groups angered by the French operation in Mali and inspired by the attack at In Amenas.

One European national security official said "a lot of folks" were doing

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