Russia has evacuated its diplomats and their families from Libya and issued a warning to its citizens to avoid the country after its embassy was attacked by an armed mob.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was no longer able to guarantee the protection of its personnel after gunmen broke into the Tripoli compound, opening fire as they scaled its walls and broke down gates.
Libyan officials said one of the attackers was killed and four injured during the raid, which was sparked by the death of a Libyan air force officer – allegedly at the hands of a Russian woman.
No diplomats were hurt in the attack, but a spokesman for the ministry, Alexander Lukashevich, said in a statement today that Moscow made the call to evacuate its entire diplomatic staff following an inspection by Libyan security forces.
Libya’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz visited the grounds before informing the Russian ambassador that Libya was unable to protect any personnel there.
Mr Lukashevich said that all embassy workers and their families had been successfully moved to Tunisia, and that Libya had pledged to look after Russian assets until they could be made secure.
The statement added that while some members of staff would stay in Tunisia to maintain contact with Libya, the rest will be flown back to Moscow tomorrow.
The Foreign Ministry has recommended that all Russian citizens avoid visiting Libya until further notice.
A Libyan official said that the gunmen scaled an embassy balcony yesterday, dragging down a Russian flag, but that they were unable to enter any of the buildings.
The violence briefly raised fears of a repeat of the deadly attack last year in which gunmen killed the US ambassador and three other Americans at an embassy in the eastern city of Benghazi.
In that instance, on the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attack, militants fired mortars at the consulate, surrounded it and set it on fire.