'Evacuate,' embassy urges Filipinos in Libya after 8 nurses saved from 'intense clashes'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 03 2020 02:20 PM | Updated as of Jan 03 2020 11:27 PM

A member of the central security support force holds a weapon during the security deployment in the Tajura neighborhood, east of Tripoli, Libya Dec. 30, 2019. Ismail Zitouny, Reuters/File

MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippine Embassy urged Filipinos in Tripoli, Libya to flee to safer ground to avoid gun battles as forces of military strongman Khalifa Haftar sought to capture the capital.

The embassy said it rescued 8 Filipino nurses on Thursday afternoon from a clinic "very near where intense clashes have been taking place."

Filipinos should "evacuate from areas near where fighting is taking place to avoid being caught in the crossfire," it said.

The embassy added that it would help Filipinos relocate, give them temporary shelter, and assist in their repatriation.

The Embassy, through Chargé d’Affaires Elmer Cato, also reiterated its call to remain on a "heightened level of vigilance" after Tripoli's only operational airport was forced to shut down after it was struck by rockets Friday.

Aside from the nurses, some 20 other Filipinos evacuated from the Salahuddin District and were staying with relatives and friends, while 149 others were repatriated last year, said the embassy.

Libya is home to around 1,000 Filipinos, according to a Department of Foreign Affairs Bulletin released last year. Many of the OFWs there are nurses or workers in oil fields, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello earlier said.

Since April 2019, Haftar's troops have sought to advance on Tripoli, seat of the Government of National Accord (GNA) which he claims is backed by "terrorist" groups.

The government in Tripoli is backed by Turkey and Qatar, while Haftar is backed by Ankara's regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Turkey's parliament approved Thursday a military deployment to support the Government of National Accord (GNA). With a report from Agence France-Presse