The U.S. State Department was forced to suspend operations at its embassy in Libya because of "freewheeling militia violence" there, Secretary of State John Kerry said today.
Kerry, who spoke to reporters before a meeting with the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers about Gaza , made
the comments after the State Department announced it evacuated its staff in Tripoli.
He blamed the "freewheeling militia violence," caused by Jihadist groups which have only grown in power since
the ouster of former president Muammar Gaddafi, for creating an environment in which the diplomatic
activities at the Libya embassy had to be suspended.
"A lot of the violence is around our embassy but not on the embassy, but nevertheless it presents a very real
risk to our personnel," Kerry said.
As a result, embassy personnel were transported in vehicles escorted by U.S. military guards and helicopters to Tunisia and dispersed throughout the
region from there.
Kerry insisted the special envoy to the region, David Satterfield, would continue to engage with his British
counterpart, and that the U.S. embassy personnel would return as soon as the situation stabilized.
But he stressed the need for Libyans to engage in a peaceful political process in order to permanently change the tide of violence in the violence-ridden nation.
"We're very, very hopeful that those people will recognize that the current course of violence will only bring chaos and possibly a return of difficulties," said Kerry.
The State Department also issued a travel warning for Libya and urged Americans there to leave.
The groups in Tripoli have been fighting for weeks, with dozens killed and wounded on all sides.
The withdrawal comes two years after a deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.