US recommends its citizens depart Libya 'immediately'

Agence France Presse

Posted at May 28 2014 07:41 AM | Updated as of May 28 2014 03:41 PM

WASHINGTON - The US State Department recommended Americans in Libya "depart immediately," in its latest travel warning on Tuesday.

The warning comes amid worsening unrest in Libya, where militia battles have plunged the country into chaos.

"Due to security concerns, the Department of State has limited staffing at Embassy Tripoli and is only able to offer very limited emergency services to US citizens in Libya," the travel warning said.

"Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially US citizens, in Libya may be associated with the US government or US NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death," it added.

"US citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately," it said.

Earlier Tuesday, the United States announced it was deploying an amphibious assault ship with about 1,000 marines off the coast of Libya in case the US embassy must be evacuated.

The USS Bataan was to be in the area "in a matter of days," said a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding it was a "precautionary" measure.

In addition to the 1,000 marines on board, the Bataan is equipped with several helicopters.

The United States also has available 250 marines, seven tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft and three refueling aircraft in Sigonella, Italy.

The precautions come amid ongoing controversy over a September 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans, including ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.