Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Some 70 staff of the U.S. Embassy in Libya and 80 Marines guarding them evacuated to Tunisia Saturday to avoid harm from heavy fighting between rival militias in Tripoli.
The evacuees drove 250 miles in a convoy from Tripoli to Tunisia under heavy guard by U.S. military aircraft and battleship offshore in the Mediterranean as a precaution against possible attack, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
The five-hour transit went without incident.
Aside from F-16s and MV-22 Ospreys nearby ready to respond in case of threat to the evacuees, a Predator drone flew above the convoy.
From Tunisia, some of the embassy personnel will be sent to other U.S. embassies in the region and others will return to Washington, according to the State Department.
The staff will return to the embassy in Tripoli when the security situation improves, said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. Meantime, the embassy will operate from other regions and Washington, D.C.
Hart said the evacuation had to be done because the fighting between rival militias is near the embassy and airport in Tripoli. The choice of driving to the Tunisian border was chosen because it was not safe to fly in the airport, which is repeatedly attacked by militias.
The evacuation follows the exit of staff of United Nations, international organizations and businesses early this month.
France and Britain on Sunday called on their citizens to evacuate Libya.
More than 150 people have died and more than 400 have been injured from the exchange of rocket and artillery fire between troops loyal to a renegade general and militias in Tripoli and in the eastern city of Benghazi the past two weeks, the Libyan government said.