WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) -- U.S. Embassy Tripoli was evacuated Saturday due to the deteriorating security situation in Libya, including in close proximity to the embassy.
The State Department issued the following statement regarding the evacuation:
"On July 26, the U.S. Embassy suspended all embassy operations in Libya and relocated staff, due to ongoing violence between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the Embassy."
Approximately 150 embassy personnel, including 80 U.S. Marines, were driven across the border into neighboring Tunisia early Saturday. "This relocation was done over land, with our personnel arriving in Tunisia this morning, and traveling onward from there," State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said Saturday, without specifying the final destination of evacuated personnel.
"We are grateful to the Government of Tunisia for its cooperation and support," Harf added.
The decision to evacuate the embassy comes as violence has increased throughout Libya.
U.S. officials earlier considered evacuating the embassy after violence broke out in the capital city of Tripoli in May, a U.S. defense official told CNN at the time.
American military assets were pre-positioned at a naval base in Sigonella, Italy, including eight V-22 Osprey aircraft and 200 Marines stationed in Moron, Spain -- part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response Team that was stood up after the 2012 attack on U.S. Consulate Benghazi -- to assist with evacuation efforts.
Any remaining U.S. citizens in Libya should depart immediately, the State Department recommended in an updated travel warning on Saturday.
"The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution. Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation. ...
"In addition to the threat of crime, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in Libya. Extremist groups in Libya have made several specific threats this year against U.S. government officials, citizens, and interests in Libya. Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S. government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death.
"U.S. citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately."