February 26, 2011: The multitudes of foreigners leaving Libya as Qaddafi’s regime attacks anti-government protesters has been staggering. Mediterranean ports overflowed with thousands of evacuees from Libya, and thousands more foreigners were still scrambling to flee the North African nation by sea, air or land as the security situation around the capital Tripoli deteriorated.
UK, US Embassy staff flee Libya as two British military planes rescued more than 150 civilians Saturday from the Libyan desert, according to a report from London. Britain’s Foreign Office also issued a statement Saturday stating it has temporarily suspended operations at its embassy in the capital. UK interests will be represented by the Turkish government until further notice.
British military planes entered Libyan airspace to rescue oil workers and others from desert locations in a daring and secret mission meant to save those unable to flee escalating violence. The C-130 Hercules planes, carrying Britons and other nationals, safely landed in Malta on Saturday after picking up the civilians south of the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi, Defence Secretary Liam Fox stated. Fox stated the frigate HMS Cumberland was returning to Benghazi from Malta to evacuate any remaining “entitled persons” from there.
The mission is likely to give a boost to a government reeling from complaints in recent days about the ineptitude of its earlier efforts to evacuate citizens trapped in the chaos.
Britons returning to London from Libya after being evacuated spoke of the chaos enveloping the North African country.”Gangs of young Libyans had knives and machetes. What they wanted was any valuables money, laptops and mobiles. We just gave them those and the keys to cars and they just left us alone to some extent.”
Over 2,800 Chinese workers landed in Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete aboard a Greek ship. Further to the west, another 2,200 Chinese arrived in Valletta, the capital of Malta, after a long journey from the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi. Hours earlier, in the dark of night, a U.S-chartered ferry dropped off over 300 passengers in Valletta who spent three days waiting to leave Libya’s chaotic capital.
As of Saturday, at least 16,000 Chinese, 15,000 Turks and 1,400 Italians had been evacuated, most working in the construction and oil industries. In addition, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council that some 22,000 people have fled across the Libyan border to Tunisia and another 15,000 crossed the border into Egypt. Col. Malek Mihoub, a Tunisian security forces official, stated that “despite the good intentions of those present,” aid groups like the Red Crescent, local authorities and the Tunisian army have become overwhelmed by the flow of people fleeing Libya.
Meanwhile, France’s Foreign Ministry stated Saturday that the French embassy in Tripoli has been closed temporarily due to the unrest. It stated a French Air Force flight took 122 people, including the entire embassy staff among the 28 French nationals on board to France on Saturday. In an accord with Russia, France stated it is temporarily conferring its interests in Libya to the Russian Embassy in Tripoli.
A flight carrying U.S. citizens departed from Tripoli on Friday, removing the last of America’s embassy staff as well. As with the UK Embassy, the American Embassy in the Libyan capital was also closed until further notice.