Dutch, Britons, Germans warned to leave Benghazi

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 6:24 pm •  Published: January 24, 2013
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Adel Mansouri, principal of the International School of Benghazi, said U.K. and foreign citizens were warned in the last few days about a possible threat to Westerners. He said the school's teachers were given the option of leaving but decided to stay.

The school has some 540 students. Most are Libyan, with some 40 percent holding dual nationality. Less than 5 percent are British, while 10 to 15 students have U.S.-Libyan nationality, he said. Classes were not due to resume until Sunday because of a holiday Thursday.

"We told the British ambassador we are staying, and we'll be in touch," said Mansouri, who has both Libyan and British citizenship. "We don't see a threat on the ground."

Saleh Gawdat, a Benghazi lawmaker, said French doctors working in the city's hospitals have left and the French cultural center was closed over concerns about potential retaliation for the French-led military intervention against Islamist militants in Mali, which began two weeks ago.

In addition to the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission, an Italian diplomat's car was fired on by militants in Benghazi earlier this month. The consul, Guido De Sanctis, wasn't injured but the attack prompted Italy to suspend its consular activities and send its foreign staff home.

Islamist extremists in the area are often blamed for targeting security officials who once worked under Gadhafi, taking revenge for those who tortured or imprisoned them in the past. Many residents also accuse Gadhafi loyalists of trying to undermine Libya's new leaders by sowing violence.

Fawzi Wanis, head of the Supreme Security Committee in Benghazi, said he did not know of an imminent threat, but "in general it is possible that something happens" in connection to Mali.

Ibrahim Sahd, a Benghazi-based lawmaker and politician, said the new government is putting together a plan to beef up security in the city and this "might have caused the Westerners to worry about a backlash."

Noman Benotman, a former Libyan jihadist with links to al-Qaida who is now an analyst at London's Quilliam Foundation, said other groups inspired by the terror network have been gaining a following in Libya since Gadhafi's fall. There have been nearly a dozen attacks against Western targets in Libya recently, he said.

"It's the same al-Qaida ideology that is driving these militants," Benotman said.

Oil companies working in other parts of Libya said they were aware of the European warnings to foreign citizens in Benghazi but said there were no immediate plans for evacuations.

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Associated Press writers Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, Juergen Baetz in Berlin, Maggie Michael in Cairo, Gregory Katz in London, Rob Gillies in Toronto, Nicole Winfield in Rome, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.



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