UK embassy convoy hit by gunfire in Libya

Black plumes of smoke is seen in the vicinity of Camp Thunderbolt, after clashes between militants, former rebel fighters and government forces in Benghazi July 26, 2014. (Reuters)

A British embassy convoy in Tripoli came under fire on Sunday in an attempted carjacking but no-one was hurt, a spokesman for London’s mission in Libya said.

“Early this morning a British embassy convoy was subject to an attempted carjacking. Shots were fired at our vehicles but they managed to drive on and leave the area,” AFP quoted spokesman Bob Phillipson as saying.

“All embassy personnel are safe and accounted for and there were no injuries,” he said.

The British embassy in Tripoli has been reducing staff since an escalation of clashes between rival militias in the Libyan capital two weeks ago in the worst violence since the 2011 civil war that ousted veteran leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Britain was also on Sunday advising its citizens against travelling to strife-torn Libya and urged all those currently in the country to leave, although its embassy in Tripoli remains open.

“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.”

Clashes kill at least 38 people

Before the attack on the British convoy, fierce fighting between Libyan Special Forces and Islamist militants at least 38 people, mostly soldiers, were killed in the eastern city of Benghazi, Agence France-Presse reported officials as saying on Sunday.

The clashes started late Saturday and continued till Sunday morning when Islamist groups launched an assault on the headquarters of a special unit near the city center, causing casualties among forces defending their barracks, a military source told AFP.

Benghazi’s main hospital said the bodies of 28 soldiers had been taken there in the past 24 hours, along with 50 injured, while Al-Marj hospital, 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the east, spoke of two soldiers dead and 10 injured.

A spokesman for the self-proclaimed Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, an alliance of Islamic and jihadist militia who have claimed a number of attacks on military bases in the area, announced that eight of its fighters had died.

Overnight, special forces commander Wanis Abu Khamada told Libya Al-Ahrar television that his troops “still have the capacity to repel any attack on state institutions.”

An AFP correspondent reported that several families could be seen leaving the area of the clashes, as loud explosions were heard in the city on Sunday morning.

Egyptian workers killed

In the capital Tripoli, another 23 people, all Egyptian workers, were killed when a rocket hit their home on Saturday during clashes between rival militias battling over the city’s main airport, Reuters reported the Egyptian state news agency as saying.

Egypt’s foreign ministry on Sunday warned its citizens not to travel to Libya, and urged those who were still in the country to head to the Tunisian borders.

In the last two weeks, Libya has descended into its deadliest violence, prompting the United States, the United Nations and Turkey to pull their diplomatic staff out of the North African country.

With the central government unable to impose order, two rival militias are fighting in Tripoli, while army units are trying to push out Islamist militants who have set up camps on the outskirts of Benghazi.

The United States evacuated its embassy in Libya on Saturday, driving diplomats across the border into Tunisia under heavy military escort after escalating clashes broke out near the embassy compound in Tripoli.

Libya’s western partners worry the OPEC oil-producing country is becoming increasingly polarized between the two main factions of competing militia brigades and their political allies, whose battle is shaping the country’s transition.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
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