Britons urged to quit Libyan city
Published 25/01/2013 | 01:35
Schools are among the possible targets of imminent threats to westerners in the Libyan city of Benghazi, according to reports.
All Britons have been urged by the Government to leave the city after it became aware of the "specific and imminent threat", just days after a deadly hostage crisis in the neighbouring country of Algeria. Germany, Canada and Netherlands citizens have also been warned by their governments to immediately leave the eastern Libyan city.
European officials, who did not want to be named, told The Associated Press that schools, businesses and offices of non-governmental organisations were among the potential targets.
The UK Foreign Office has been advising against all but essential travel to most of the country since last September, but stepped up its warning on Thursday.
A spokesman said: "We are now aware of a specific and imminent threat to westerners in Benghazi, and urge any British nationals who remain there against our advice to leave immediately. The British Embassy in Tripoli has been in contact with British nationals for whom we have contact details to alert them to the advice."
Adel Mansouri, principal of the International School of Benghazi who has both British and Libyan citizenship, said UK and foreign citizens were warned in the last few days about a possible threat to Westerners.
He added that the school's teachers were given the option of leaving but decided to stay. The school has some 540 students, most of which are Libyan with 40 holding dual nationality and less than 5% are British. He said: "We told the British ambassador we are staying, and we'll be in touch. We don't see a threat on the ground."
The dangers in the wake of Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow are said to include "indiscriminate" terrorist attacks against foreign travellers and kidnapping. The French military action in Mali, which has received British logistical support, has also raised the threat of retaliatory strikes on westerners.
Benghazi was the stronghold of the Western-backed revolt that eventually ended Gaddafi's hold on power in Libya. However, Britain has not had any diplomatic presence in the city since an attack on the US mission last September that killed American ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his colleagues.
Libyan officials have reportedly condemned the move as "not rational" and have demanded an explanation from the Foreign Office.