Libya: France evacuates French and British nationals in Libya as fighting intensifies

The French embassy say that the evacuees are now on a boat headed towards Toulon in the south of France

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The Independent Online

The French government has evacuated both French and British nationals from the Libyan capital Tripoli, as the fighting between government forces and anti-government militia intensifies.

French government spokesman in Paris, Stephane Le Foll, did not give any specific numbers on how many people had been taken out of the country but did confirm that both French and British citizens had been removed.

He added that the French embassy had been temporarily closed until the situation in the country’s capital became safer.

According to the French foreign ministry, the evacuees had boarded a French warship that was now headed for the southern French port of Toulon.

The news of the French evacuation comes days after the US decided to evacuate their embassy staff due to safety concerns.

On Saturday, a total of 150 embassy workers alongside 80 marines were escorted out of Libya by US military aircraft to neighbouring Tunisia.

Following the evacuation, US spokeswoman Marie Harf said: “Due to the on-going violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the US Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya.”

The severity of fighting between the government’s military forces and Islamist militia groups has increased over the last couple of days, with militia groups making some key advances, particularly in the country’s second city Benghazi.

On Tuesday, Islamist groups announced the capture of an important Libyan special force base in Benghazi.

The loss of the base was later confirmed by Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, who said his forces, had to withdraw after suffering a number of sustained attacks from the Islamist forces.

This has been matched by equally vicious fighting on the outskirts of Libya’s capital Tripoli, as a battle to secure control of Tripoli’s International Airport enters its third week.

The fighting has so far lasted two weeks and, according to Libyan health officials, resulted in the deaths of 79 people, with more than 400 more wounded on both sides.

A number of observers have reported that it is the worst violence the country has seen since rebel forces toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The UK, France, Germany and the US have all now advised their citizens still in the country to leave immediately.