Ireland urges nationals to leave Benghazi


Ireland has joined Britain, Germany and the Netherlands in urging its nationals to leave the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi due to a specific threat to westerners.

In a travel advisory posted on its website yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs stated that “intelligence reports suggest that there is a specific, imminent threat to westerners” in Benghazi. It advised against all travel to the city and urged Irish citizens there to leave immediately.

A handful of Irish nationals live in Benghazi, a city of a million people and birthplace of the uprising that dislodged Muammar Gadafy in 2011. Most are Irish women married to Libyans.

The Dutch foreign ministry warned its citizens to avoid Benghazi and the area to its east, saying the security situation was uncertain and that there was a risk of violence.

“All journeys, including for transit, and stays in certain regions, specifically Benghazi and the region to its east, are advised against,” the ministry said on its website.

Increased risk

The German foreign ministry declined to give any further details to explain its warning. Berlin had warned Germans of an increased risk of attack or abduction across north Africa and countries bordering the Sahara following last week’s gas facility siege by militants in Algeria.

Several countries have for months advised against all travel to Benghazi, particularly after the US consulate in the city was attacked in September, resulting in the deaths of four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya.

Diplomat attacked

Earlier this month an Italian diplomat’s car was fired on by militants in the city, prompting Italy to order the temporary suspension of its consular activities there.

Security has been stepped up across Libya due to concerns about potential retaliation against foreigners as a result of the French-led military intervention in Mali, which began two weeks ago.

British people in Benghazi were earlier told by the foreign office of the “specific and imminent” threat but the ministry declined to give details of the nature of the threat.

In the past, however, it has warned of the long reach of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the north African wing of al-Qaeda.

At least 38 hostages were killed in an attack on the remote In Amenas gas complex in Algeria, about 100km (60 miles) from the Libyan border. French forces are also fighting Islamist rebels in Mali.

“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,” the foreign office said in a statement.

“The situation in Cyrenaica [eastern Libya] is not just worrying, it is incredibly worrying. Everybody is on alert,” a western diplomat said. – (Additional reporting Reuters)