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Officials flee Libya amid crisis


People waiting outside Tripoli's international airport (AP)

People waiting outside Tripoli's international airport (AP)

People waiting outside Tripoli's international airport (AP)

Officials trying to secure safe passage out of Libya for Irish citizens fled amid fears over the worsening security situation.

Three members of an emergency consular team flew out of Tripoli after more than a dozen Irish people in the capital said they would not risk trying to make it to the airport. Four people who had been waiting for a rescue flight have been evacuated.

There were unconfirmed reports that Libya closed airspace outside of Tripoli preventing a British aircraft flying deep into the country on a rescue mission.

Diplomats also warned that embassies are shutting down and hotels, which foreign officials intended to use as bases, have been taken over by the Gaddafi regime.

In Dublin, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said its emergency consular team on the ground secured safe passage for two people and another two were evacuated on another flight. The team was then taken out of the country by a Canadian organised flight.

The spokesman said efforts were made by consular staff in Tripoli airport and staff in Dublin to make contact with all Irish citizens in the country - about 20.

But he added: "It is likely that a number of these have already left Tripoli. Of those contacted, a small number indicated a desire to leave but said that they were unwilling or unable to risk travelling to the airport.

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"In light of the sharply deteriorating security situation and the fact that no Irish citizens remained at the airport or were known to be travelling to the airport, the decision was taken at nightfall that the team should return to Malta on a Canadian evacuation flight."

Communications have also been increasingly difficult, the spokesman said.

Dublin's Foreign Affairs department said the emergency team would reassess the situation from Malta on Saturday. Twelve Irish citizens in Benghazi were taken out by sea and arrangements are in place to fly them to Dublin on an Air Corps flight on Saturday.

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