‘Leave Libya now’: Spain warns nationals

Spain's foreign affairs ministry is warning nationals to leave Libya immediately as the security situation in the North African country worsens, with terrorist attacks threatened.

'Leave Libya now': Spain warns nationals
A picture taken on July 24th shows smoke billowing from an area near Tripoli's international airport during fighting between rival factions around the capital's airport. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

Spain was one of several western nations on Sunday to warn their citizens to leave Libya, where intensifying fighting between militias was threatening to destabilize the country.

The country's foreign affairs ministry "very strongly" recommended its nationals leave the country given the "serious worsening" of the security situation in the country.

Consular services in the country could also be limited, the embassy said on its website.

Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United States have also called on their citizens to get out of Libya

"The situation is extremely unpredictable and uncertain," the German foreign ministry said. "German nationals are at increased risk of kidnapping and attacks."

Two weeks of fighting between militias in Libya's capital Tripoli have left 97 people dead.

The United States evacuated staff from its Libyan embassy under air cover on Saturday as they faced a "real risk" from fierce fighting around Tripoli airport, US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

The airport was closed on July 13th following clashes between armed groups in the area.

Britain later updated its advice to warn against travel to Libya, and told those already there to leave.

"Due to the ongoing and greater intensity of fighting in Tripoli and wider instability throughout Libya, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Libya," the ministry's website said.

"British nationals in Libya should leave now by commercial means."

Britain's embassy will remain open but with reduced staff, and its ability to provide consular assistance "is very limited," the Foreign Office said.

High terror threat

The British ministry warned of a high threat of terrorism, noting that a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in recent months.

It told those still in Libya, believed to number between 100 and 300, to avoid demonstrations or large crowds and to "keep a low profile".

The US announcement that it was evacuating its embassy came hours after Libya's interim government warned that the clashes between militia vying for control of the strategic airport were threatening to tear the country apart.

Czech, Maltese and Austrian foreign ministries have ongoing advice not to travel to Libya.

Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway have all also advised against travel, while Sweden has also told its citizens to leave the second city of Benghazi.

Spain's foreign ministry "very strongly" recommends that all Spaniards leave Libya "immediately" and Switzerland has warned citizens that it would find it difficult to rescue them should the situation deteriorate.

Belgium on July 16 told nationals to leave the country "immediately" and Turkish citizens were advised to leave on July 24th, a day before its government suspended operations at the Tripoli embassy.

Austria, Italy and Portugal have all warned nationals against travelling around the country, with Austria saying that the risk of terrorist attack was particularly high in Benghazi.

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Spain pulls diplomatic staff out of Libya

Spain has temporarily evacuated all of its diplomatic staff from its embassy in Libya as the country's security crisis continues to worsen, the foreign affairs minister announced on Thursday.

Spain pulls diplomatic staff out of Libya
Members of the Libyan army guarding the western gate of Tripoli in May. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

Some 28 staff people, including Spain's embassy staff in Libya, were expected to arrive in Madrid's Torrejón de Ardoz military airbase, the ministry said in statement quoted by Spain's El Periódico newspaper.

This is the second such evacuation from Libya this week after 37 Spaniards, their Libyan family members and citizens from other European Union countries were airlifted on Tuesday.

The evacuations come amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the North African country in recent weeks.

SEE ALSO: Italy denies sending fighter jets to Libya

Tripoli’s airport has been closed for over two weeks as violence rages in the Libyan capital. 

The clashes, the most violent since a 2011 armed revolt that overthrew longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, started with a July 13th assault on the airport by armed groups, mainly Islamists.

The deadly fighting has spread to other cities and on Monday a huge fire erupted at an oil depot outside the Libyan capital, threatening its vital oil industry already hit by the exodus of foreign workers.

"The Spanish Government is confident that the unstable situation in Libya will soon pass and repeats its call for a ceasefire as quickly as possible," foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo said in a statement on Thursday.

The Spanish Government would continue to support the country's new parliament and would continue to support its international allies and the United Nations to consolidate democracy and ensure the stability of the country, the minister added.