Conflict & Justice

Libya: Westerners urged to leave Benghazi for fear of attacks


Libyan policemen in civilian clothing outside the Tibesti hotel in Benghazi, on January 3, 2013.



A "specific threat to Westerners" in Benghazi, Libya, has prompted Britain, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands to urge their citizens to leave immediately.

The UK Independent cited a threat from "terror groups operating in North Africa," specifically Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a group linked to last week’s hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in which 37 Westerners were killed. 

The paper cited defense sources as naming Ansar Al-Sharia, targeted by Libyans for retribution after US ambassador Chris Stevens was killed during protests on Sept. 11 last year.

According to Agence France-Presse, the Foreign Office statement said: 

"We are now aware of a specific and imminent threat to Westerners in Benghazi, and urge any British nationals who remain there against our advice to leave immediately. We cannot comment further on the nature of the threat at this time."

A Dutch foreign ministry spokesman told AFP: "This means it would be better if they left," referring to Westerners.

Egypt had restricted movement across its border with Libya because of the security concerns.

The Guardian quoted Libya's leader, Jumma Atiga of the General People's Conference, as expressing surprise at the warning, however, and saying it was not justified. 

And Libyan deputy interior minister, Abdullah Massoud, said his country would be demanding an explanation from Britain.

"We acknowledge that there are security problems in Benghazi and that there have been for several months, but there is no new intelligence that could justify this reaction from London."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week testified to Congress of the Benghazi attacks that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including Stevens.

Clinton again took responsibility for poor management of security alerts leading up to the incident.

Rand Paul of Kentucky said if he had been president at the time, he would have fired Clinton.

More from GlobalPost: Rand Paul to Clinton on Benghazi: 'I would have relieved you of your post'