Get out of Benghazi, Brits told - but Libya queries terror alert

Jan 25, 2013

Schools or gas facility among mooted targets as westerners are urged to leave 'lawless' city now

Getty Images

THE FOREIGN OFFICE has warned Britons to leave the Libyan city of Benghazi immediately in response to what it called "a specific, imminent threat to westerners".

However, senior Libyan politicians have reacted with surprise to the advice, claiming that they have no knowledge of an increased threat to westerners in the city and were not consulted before the alert was given.

The warning to Britons came as Germany, the Netherlands and Canada also urged their citizens to quit Benghazi, and the US, whose ambassador was killed in the city last September, reiterated its advice to Americans not to go there.

European officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Associated Press that "schools, businesses and offices of non-governmental organizations were among the possible targets". While The Guardian said "an attack was expected on an oil or gas facility".

According to The Times: "Westerners in Libya's lawless second city had become prime targets after last week's Algerian hostage crisis... The warning reinforces the impression that the Nato-backed uprising that toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has created a security vacuum in Libya in which Islamic terrorists are thriving."

The New York Times claimed that some of the terrorists who attacked the Algerian gas plant last week were involved in the attack on the US mission in Benghazi last year when ambassador Chris Stevens was killed. The paper said Benghazi had "come to symbolise the problems in Libya and the impunity of regional militias, including some with Islamic militant ties".

But Libya's deputy interior minister, Abdullah Massoud, said: "There is no new intelligence that could justify this reaction from London." And Jumma Atigahas, deputy leader of the Libyan Congress, told ITV News: "To have this announcement that hints at something that doesn't really exist on the ground is not justified enough in our opinion."

The BBC said the Libyan reaction of "palpable regret and anger" was understandable. "There appears to be a worry in Benghazi that if western countries isolate them, their problems will multiply."

Sign up for our daily newsletter