| 6.1°C Dublin

Irish citizens urged to leave Libya

Diplomats have advised all Irish citizens in Libya to leave. Official advice has been upgraded urging anyone considering travelling to the troubled north African state to cancel their plans.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said consular officials were in contact with all Irish people in the country, about 40 citizens.

"We are advising against all travel to Libya. We are advising all Irish citizens who are out there to leave by commercial means if possible and if it's safe to do so," the spokesman said.

There are believed to be at least six Irish workers in Libya's second city Benghazi with Dublin-based firm Mercury Engineering.

Four other women who hold Irish passports are long-term residents in the city and married to Libyan men. It is unlikely they will attempt to leave.

Government troops in Benghazi have reportedly opened fire on protesters with machine guns.

The airport in the city was reportedly under the control of protesters but roads around Benghazi were being policed by the Gaddafi regime.

Most of the Irish people in Libya are residents in the country, either working or raising families. Some work in education, others in the service sector and in communications.

A Foreign Affairs spokesman said Irish citizens have been able to make contact with consular staff but it has been difficult to maintain consistent communication links as internet and telephone links are intermittent.

Foreign Affairs officials have been liaising with European Union counterparts to establish options to assist citizens and help them leave the country safely.

Medical officials in Benghazi said 15 people died when troops opened fire on mourners leaving a funeral for protesters killed in earlier clashes.

Muammar Gaddafi's son Saadi is understood to have led the crackdown in Benghazi against protesters calling for an end to his father's 42-year autocratic rule.

Another of Gaddafi's sons, Saif, warned he would fight protesters "to the last bullet".

PA Media