US evacuates Libya embassy amid militia violence “Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top Department priorities," says U.S. State Department

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AA) – The U.S. pulled all diplomatic staff from Libya due to nearby violent clashes, the State Department announced Saturday.

“Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” Marie Harf, the State Department’s deputy spokeswoman, said in a statement released to the press.

The diplomats were removed overland to Tunisia and arrived in Tunis Saturday morning. They will now operate from regional posts and Washington.

The closure underscores continued U.S. concern about its diplomats’ safety following the September 11, 2012, attack on its consulate and a nearby CIA annex in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

That attack led to the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and State Department official Sean Smith. Two CIA contractors – Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty – were killed at the neighboring annex.

The Obama administration has come under severe congressional criticism for the deaths.

“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top Department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” said Harf. “Security has to come first.”

Late Thursday night, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Deborah Jones, tweeted: “No we have not been attacked but our neighborhood a bit 2 close to the action. Diplomatic missions 2 B avoided pls.”

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