U.S. Embassy in Libya evacuates personnel
(CNN) — The U.S. Embassy in Libya evacuated its personnel on Saturday because of heavy militia violence in the capital, Tripoli, U.S. officials said.
About 150 personnel, including 80 U.S. Marines were evacuated from the embassy in the early hours of Saturday morning and were driven across the border into Tunisia, U.S. officials confirm to CNN.
CNN has learned the plan to evacuate the Americans was in the works for several days, but the decision to carry out the plan was made just in the last few days as the security situation around the embassy deteriorated.
Militia fighting in the area of the embassy and airport has degraded security in Tripoli significantly.
The Libyan government was informed of the evacuation after it was carried out, according to U.S. officials.
The Pentagon had a “robust package of military forces” in the vicinity but out of sight, ready to move in if the convoy of evacuees had come under attack.
CNN has learned there were two F-16s on combat air patrol overhead, a drone tracking the convoy to the border and a Navy destroyer offshore in the Mediterranean.
There were also several dozen heavily armed Marines flying overhead on V-22 Osprey aircraft in an “airborne response force” that were prepared to land and rapidly evacuate the Americans during the transit to the Tunisian border if they came under attack.
The Pentagon had pressed for weeks to evacuate the embassy, especially after the Tripoli airport came under repeated militia attack, leaving Americans no way to get out via commercial air, the official said.
The decision to use vehicles to drive the Americans across the border was seen as the best low-profile approach to conducting the evacuation rather than sending U.S. military helicopters and troops into Tripoli.
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent