The Associated Press reported Saturday morning that the U.S. embassy in Libya has been shut down and evacuated due to violence between rival militias.
According to the AP, the State Department said embassy staffers departed Tripoli on Saturday and trekked on land to neighboring Tunisia.
“The U.S. together with other countries have decided that because of the freewheeling militia violence that is taking place particularly around the embassy… it presents a real risk to our personnel,” Secretary of State John Kerry said of the decision, according to NBC News.
Kerry also noted that embassy activities were suspended, not ended, and State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “We are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves.”
She added, “We did not make this decision lightly.”
NBC reported that a caravan of 158 Americans, including 80 armed Marines, were guarded from above by two F-16 fighter jets and multiple drones as they drove west towards Tunisia early Saturday.
As the AP noted, the last time the U.S. embassy in Libya was closed was in early 2011 — as an insurrection took off that led to the ouster and death of longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
This story has been updated.
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