The US embassy in Libya has been shuttered and all personnel evacuated from the compound amid spiraling violence between rival militia in Tripoli, the US State Department said today.
"Due to the ongoing 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," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.
Around 150 embassy staff and security members were evacuated under cover of military surveillance aircraft and war planes to neighboring Tunisia, where they would be "traveling onward," Harf said.
Harf said the embassy had not been closed, but "temporarily suspended." The mission will continue to conduct operations from other locations abroad until "the security situation on the ground improves."
Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a statement that the evacuation mission lasted approximately five hours and was carried off without incident.
Libya has been the breeding ground for increasing sectarian and religious violence carried out by rival militia battling to fill the power vacuum left from the fall of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
In recent weeks, clashes have killed and wounded dozens, and flights in an out of Tripoli International Airport have been suspended until a fierce battle between armed local Misrata militias and the powerful Zintan militia, who currently control the airport, subsides.
The militias, originating from varied communities and tribes, fall on various sections of the political spectrum — from liberal government-supporting groups and moderates to powerful Islamist and rebel factions vying to advance their own financial and political dominance.
At least four people were reportedly killed during clashes between rival militias at Tripoli airport on July 21.
The Tripoli International Airport, which serves 3 million passengers per year, is now a battleground in Libya: — Colin Daileda (@ColinDaileda)July 22, 2014
Even militia that is ostensibly cooperating with the government or have even been put on state payroll — such as the Misratis — have continued to clash with or undermine government authorities and each other.
Earlier this month, UN officials and humanitarian workers fled Libyan cities, including the country's second largest, Benghazi, where militants stormed the US consulate on September 11, 2012, killing US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The State Department issued a further travel warning to US citizens on Saturday recommending that those currently in Libya depart immediately.
In Libya, the New Bosses Are Just Like the Old Boss. Read more here.
Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields