Security situation out of control around Tripoli
A number of governments including the UK, USA, France, Germany and the Netherlands have urged their citizens to leave Libya as fighting intensifies around the capital Tripoli (especially the airport) and in Benghazi to the east.
The recent spate of violence started as a minor incident on 5th July, according to the Head of the United Nations Support Mission to Libya (UNSMIL), but spiralled out of control and has grown into a major confrontation in the past two weeks.
At least one foreign national, a Filipino worker, was abducted apparently because he was a non-Muslim and was then beheaded by militiamen.
The fighting has been between Islamist led militias mainly from the western city of Misrata who launched the attack on the international airport which is controlled by militias from the town of Zintan. At least forty people have died so far.
UNSMIL has now evacuated most of its staff and the United States and Turkey have closed down their embassies and moved their staff to nearby Tunisia.
The latest fighting comes as the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) announced the final results of the parliamentary elections held on 25th June. Islamists appear to have done badly, picking up perhaps 30 of the 200 seats on the new Council of Representatives. Only 42% of the 1.5 million registered voters turned out to vote in the election with less than half of those who could have voted even bothering to register for the vote.
The new parliament is planning to move to Benghazi but that seems improbably at the moment as the fighting has also intensified there.
Meanwhile, this morning the Libyan government website has requested the support of international aid as oil tanks around the Brega oil and gas repositories are hit by bombings and set alight.
The official announcement, originally in Arabic only, as published on the government website is as follows:
“A very important announcement
The Libyan government draws temporary care of everyone to a fire at huge repositories at Brega oil and gas on the Airport Road as a result of being affected with the bombing, and given the magnitude of the fire has reduced the government of all its capabilities through the use of all civil defense units in Tripoli, as well as firefighters, engineers and technical personnel to Brega and work is underway to extinguish the fire. It is in the grace of God that the efforts of these heroes are already under control.
And as a precaution, the government has requested international assistance and asked several states for their willingness to send planes and teams specializing in extinguishing fires.
Government groups warn of the consequences of the non-stop shooting and failing to give the opportunity for firefighters to do their work. The government will place the responsibility on these parties of the humanitarian and environmental disaster that will result in the capital Tripoli in the event of not being able to extinguish this fire.
God save Libya”
The following advice from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office as published on the FCO website reflects the general advice being given by most governments to their nationals:
Still current at: 28 July 2014
Updated: 27 July 2014
Latest Update: Summary and Crime Section – Please call +218 (0)21 335 1084/5/6 if you are a British national in Libya and have concerns about how to leave the country.
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. British nationals in Libya should leave now by commercial means.
If you are a British national in Libya and you have concerns about how to leave the country, please call +218 (0)21 335 1084/5/6.
The British Embassy remains open but with reduced staff. The Embassy’s ability to provide consular assistance in Libya is very limited.
On 27 July 2014, a British diplomatic convoy was subject to an attempted car-jacking on the road between Tripoli and Zawiya. Shots were fired but no one was injured.
On 13 July 2014, Tripoli International Airport was closed following clashes that broke out between armed groups in the area surrounding the airport. Other airports may change their flight schedule without notice. Contact your airline or travel company for further information before travelling.
There is a widespread and worsening shortage of petrol and lengthy queues at fuel stations are common.
Since December 2013, a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in Libya. Further attacks against foreigners are likely and could be opportunistic.
There is a high threat from terrorism including kidnapping. Since January 2014, a number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped, including in Tripoli.
Avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. If you become aware of any nearby violence you should leave the area immediately. Violent clashes between armed groups are possible across the country, including in Tripoli, particularly at night. Fighting can break out in many places and at short notice. It can become serious quickly putting those in the area at risk. You should remain vigilant at all times.
Keep a low profile and try to limit travelling around as much as possible, particularly at night. There is a high threat from crime.
If you’re entering Libya as a media representative, you should get press accreditation from the Libyan authorities. You must get permission before taking any photographs or interviewing at or near military facilities. If you are entering Libya for work or business, you should get the right visa, or risk deportation.”