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Foreigners, diplomats flee Libya amid security crisis

July 28, 2014 at 6:29 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: Now a look at the deteriorating situation in Libya. The country has struggled with violence and instability since the revolution that unseated Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. In recent weeks, it’s only gotten worse.

Jeffrey Brown has the story.

JEFFREY BROWN: Factional fighting, regional rivalries, personnel at foreign embassies fleeing the chaos, and today a fire burning out of control near the airport in the capital of Tripoli.

We begin our coverage with this report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

LINDSEY HILSUM: That’s what happens when you fire rockets into a fuel depot, as rival militia did in the Libyan capital yesterday and again today. Sirens sounded. This afternoon, the national oil company said the blaze was out of control and firefighters had been forced to withdraw.

Tripoli has descended into anarchy. Revolutionary brigades from the port city of Misrata have teamed it up with Islamists to fight rivals from the town of Zintan, who have controlled the airport since the revolution in 2011. No one is controlling the armed men. There are no police, no army, and a government that exists in name only.

Burned-out buildings near the airport, emblems of the failure of the Libyan revolution, which has brought not freedom, but more conflict. The U.S. Embassy is shuttered. American diplomats were pulled out on Saturday. Other foreigners and Libyans who can are leaving from the small airport inside the city.

SALAH QADRAH, Security, Mitiga Airport (through interpreter): This crisis is adding to our security problems. A large number of foreigners and embassy staff have left through this airport.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Most staff from the British Embassy left yesterday, reportedly in these armored cars which were attacked en route. No one was hurt. Such are the shortages, Tripoli residents have to queue for petrol. Electricity is intermittent, and water comes and goes. Three years ago, Libyans celebrated the overthrow of Colonel Gadhafi. Today, no one seems to know how to pull their nation out of the abyss.