25 January 2013

Libya: Westerners Advised to Leave Benghazi

Tripoli — "We want to be connected to the world rather than be severed from it," one Benghazi resident says.

Germany, the UK, Australia, the US and the Netherlands on Thursday (January 24th) warned their citizens to leave Benghazi.

According to Libya Herald, the move followed reports on evidence of a possible attack on a Libyan oilfield, similar to the assault on the In Amenas gas complex.

Libya is taking a tough stand on security, following the Algeria incident.

Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail said last week that people would be allowed to only enter Libya with entry visas, and that any violators would be brought to justice.

A security plan is being prepared for Benghazi, including a curfew from midnight to 5:00 o'clock in the morning and army and police would step up patrols at checkpoints, Shuwail added.

"The officials and citizens of Benghazi condemn any acts against foreign nationals, whether Arabs, Westerners or others, whether Muslims or others," said Mohammed al-Taeb, a Benghazi councilman.

As to the foreign embassy warnings, al-Taeb said, "They have the right to do this to protect their citizens."

"Western governments might have taken their positions based on the attack on the US consulate," suggested Libyan Centre party chief Abdelhamid al-Naami.

He added that foreigners might also be apprehensive of demonstrations.

"This is an internal affair related to federalism. These demonstrations won't have anything to do with attacks on foreign nationals, consulates, companies or individuals," he noted.

In related news, Air Malta cancelled on Thursday two flights between Benghazi and Malta. The Maltese company said the decision was related to "advice issued today by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advising against all travel to the city", Libya Herald reported.

"The West can't just escalate the situation," commented housewife Nabiha Ali. "We want them to help us with the security file, and we want to be connected to the world rather than be severed from it."

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