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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

In Libya, Mass Evacuation of Foreigners Continues

VOA News February 23, 2011

A massive evacuation of foreigners from Libya is underway by air, sea and land.

Tens of thousands of foreigners in Libya are boarding planes, ships and, in some cases, overcrowded vans in an effort to flee the chaos that has erupted from opposition protests and a government crackdown.

Two Turkish vessels picked up 3,000 Turks from the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi Wednesday, as part of what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the biggest evacuation operation in Turkey's history. Benghazi's airport has been shut down for several days, forcing nations to evacuate foreigners by sea.

About 25,000 Turks resided in Libya when the unrest began last week, many of them working in construction. Davutoglu says one Turkish worker was killed in violence at a building site near the capital, Tripoli.

Chinese state media say Beijing also is organizing an air, sea and land operation to evacuate up to 33,000 Chinese citizens from Libya. The operation involves chartered aircraft, Chinese commercial ships, fishing boats and buses. Greek news agencies say the Greek government will help China to transport as many as 13,000 Chinese to the Mediterranean island of Crete.

The U.S. State Department advised Americans wishing to leave Tripoli to report to the city's As-Shahab port for a ferry ride to Malta on Wednesday.

Reuters news says several thousand people have streamed across the Ras Jdir crossing between Libya and Tunisia on Wednesday. The International Organization for Migration says Tunisian nationals, along with Lebanese, Turkish, Syrians and Germans have crossed into the country.

Several nations also sent military and civilian planes to Tripoli or were preparing to do so in coordination with Libyan authorities. Those nations include Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, the Netherlands, Russia, Serbia and Spain. Passengers who arrived in European cities reported chaotic scenes at Tripoli's airport.

South Asian nations also prepared evacuation plans for tens of thousands of their citizens working in Libya, many as low-paid laborers on construction sites.

Indian Foreign Minister Nirupama Rao said Wednesday New Delhi is making arrangements to help all of its 18,000 citizens in Libya leave the country by air and sea. The plans include sending a passenger ship with a capacity of 1,000 people to the Libyan coast to pick up Indian evacuees.

Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes says Dhaka is considering all options for repatriating up to 60,000 Bangladeshis from Libya. The impoverished South Asian nation has been in contact with international organizations to seek their assistance with evacuation plans.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.



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