Russia evacuated its embassy staff from Libya after armed militants attacked the country’s diplomatic compound in Tripoli.
Russian embassy officials and their families crossed safely into Tunisia today, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website. All but a handful of senior diplomats who will remain in Tunisia to maintain ties with Tripoli will return to Moscow tomorrow, the ministry said.
The decision was taken after the North African nation’s authorities told the Russian ambassador that Libya wasn’t “currently able to guarantee the protection and security of the Russian embassy and recommends its staff to leave the diplomatic mission,” ministry’s spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
The attack came in revenge for the killing of a Libyan officer by a Russian woman now under arrest, according to the ministry. Libya has witnessed assaults on embassies and diplomats of various countries including the murder of U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
Intruders entered the compound and were repelled by the embassy’s guards and Libyan forces, the Russian ministry said. No embassy staff were hurt during the clashes, Hashim Bishar, commander of the Tripoli Supreme Security Committee, said in an interview today. One of the attackers was killed and four were wounded, the Associated Press reported, citing Libyan officials.
Russia lost billions of dollars in arms and civilian contracts after the overthrow in 2011 of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. It has resumed cooperation with the post-Qaddafi government by offering to train military personnel and to develop energy ties.
Russia’s embassy experienced a similar attack in February 2012 by Libyans protesting Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.