British navy to evacuate UK citizens from Libya

The British Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster is seen berthed in Valletta's Grand Harbour March 27, 2011.

The British Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster is seen berthed in Valletta’s Grand Harbour March 27, 2011.

The United Kingdom will deploy a navy ship to Libya to help evacuate its nationals as security problems escalate, a government source was quoted on Saturday by Agence-France Presse.

The source said a Royal Navy ship would arrive to Libyan ports “in the near future” to collect British and other nationals wishing to leave Libya.

Meanwhile, Sky News television reported the HMS Enterpreise, a survey vessel, to have reached the Libyan coast and is expected to leave Tripoli on Sunday.

A launch protected by armed Royal Marines was expected to be sent into Tripoli port to collect evacuees and ferry people to the HMS Enterprise.

Michael Aron, Britain’s ambassador in Tripoli, said Friday he had “reluctantly” decided to leave due to worsening local fighting.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman would not comment on how Britain plans to evacuate its nationals. The evacuation is likely to resemble a 2011 operation during which a Royal Navy ship evacuated foreigners during an uprising that ousted dictator Moamer Qaddafi.

“As the Foreign Office has made clear, the UK government will provide assisted departure for a number of UK nationals before suspending consular operations on Monday,” he said in a statement.

“For operational reasons we will not discuss further details including whether, and in what ways, the MoD could support these efforts.”

Libya has suffered chronic insecurity since Qaddafi overthrow, with the new government unable to check militias that helped to remove him and facing a growing threat from Islamist groups.

Fighting between rival militias in Tripoli has forced the closure of the city’s international airport, while Islamist groups are battling army special forces in the eastern city of Benghazi.

In the past week, many countries have ordered their citizens to leave and, in some cases, have evacuated them.

Between 100 and 300 Britons are thought to be in Libya. Many of the British consular staff were evacuated last Monday.

“Fighting has intensified in Tripoli, including around the British embassy compounds,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.

“In the light of the deteriorating security situation, we are taking steps temporarily to suspend operations at the British embassy in Tripoli after the planned assisted departure of British nationals.

“The UK government has changed its travel advice to reflect the ongoing security situation.

“We advise against all travel to Libya and urge British nationals in Libya to leave through commercially available means.

“The British embassy is arranging an assisted departure for British nationals…. We plan temporarily to suspend operations at the British embassy following the assisted departure,” the spokesman said.

 
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