A YouTube video showed the breach of the diplomatic facility by
what was believed to be a militia group mostly from the northwestern
city of Misrata. Dozens of men, some armed, were seen gleefully
crowded onto the patio of a swimming pool, with some diving in from
the balcony of a nearby building.
Libya has been rocked by the worst factional violence since the 2011
fall of Muammar Gaddafi, and a Misrata-led alliance, part of it
which is Islamist-leaning, now controls the capital.
A takeover of the larger embassy compound could deliver another
symbolic blow to Washington over its policy toward Libya, which
Western governments fear is teetering toward becoming a failed state
three years after a NATO-backed war ended Gaddafi’s rule.
The United States withdrew all embassy personnel from Tripoli on
July 26, driving diplomats across the border into Tunisia, amid
escalating clashes between rival factions.
The annex, apparently consisting of diplomatic residences and other
facilities, lies about a mile (2 km) from the embassy compound. All
sensitive materials were destroyed or removed from U.S. diplomatic
sites in the capital before the evacuation.
Security in Libya is an especially contentious subject for the
United States because of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S.
mission in Benghazi, in which militants killed Ambassador Chris
Stevens and three other Americans.
Republican lawmakers have kept up steady criticism of President
Barack Obama over his administration’s handling of the Benghazi
attack, and they have also cited Libya’s latest unrest as another
example of what they see as the Democratic president’s failed policy
in the volatile region.
“Libya now is collapsed into a failed state," U.S. Senator John
McCain told CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "That is what happens
when you lead from behind."
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones, in a message on Twitter,
said the YouTube recording, posted by an amateur videographer,
appeared to show “a residential annex of the U.S. mission but cannot
Jones, now based in Malta, said, however, that the embassy compound
“is now being safeguarded and has not been ransacked.”
The U.S. government believes that while the annex has been seized,
the main compound has not suffered a similar fate, a U.S. government
source in Washington told Reuters.
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Later on Sunday, a senior State Department official said in a
statement: "We've seen the reports and videos and are seeking
additional details. At this point, we believe the embassy compound
itself remains secure but we continue to monitor the situation on
the ground, which remains very fluid.
"The primary reason the United States temporarily relocated our
personnel and operations from Tripoli recently was the ongoing
fighting between militias occurring very close to our compound," the
official said. "We continue to work with the government of Libya and
other parties on issues of concern."
The Misrata-led groups refuse to recognize Libya’s central
government and elected parliament, which have moved to the remote
eastern city of Tobruk.
The Misrata forces have set up an alternative parliament which is
assembling a rival government headed by Omar al-Hasi, an Islamist.
Hasi called on Saturday for diplomatic missions to return to
Tripoli, saying foreigners would be protected.
The North African oil producer appears at risk of splitting or even
sliding into civil war as political divisions and fighting among
former rebels who helped topple Gaddafi have created uncertainty and
(Additional reporting by Ulf Lessing in Cairo and Andrea Shalal in
Washington; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Andrea Ricci and
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