Russia evacuates embassy in Libya after attack

Watch footage of the aftermath of the attack on the Russian embassy

All staff and family members have been evacuated from the Russian embassy in Libya after gunmen attacked the compound in the capital, Tripoli.

The foreign ministry in Moscow announced that the evacuees had arrived in neighbouring Tunisia, from where they planned to fly back to Russia.

It suggested the incident was a revenge attack after the alleged killing of a Libyan by a Russian citizen.

Two Libyans were reportedly also killed during the assault on the embassy.

The Russian foreign ministry said its diplomats in Tunis would maintain ties with Libya.

No Russian casualties were reported during the attack on Wednesday but a car and other property were damaged.

An attack last year on a US compound in the city of Benghazi killed four people, including the US ambassador, while a car bomb outside the French embassy in April injured two French guards and a number of residents.

Analysis

Russian-Libyan ties appear to have steadily improved in the past two years.

The two countries have recently reactivated contracts signed before the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

There are plans in progress for military co-operation in the fields of training and developing the air force, according to a military source in Tripoli.

The Russian diplomats' exit reflects a wider worry within the diplomatic community here over the government's capacity to provide adequate security for their premises.

A car bomb was found outside the Italian embassy in June, and the UK withdrew some embassy staff in May over security concerns.

'Libyan officer'

In a statement on its website, the Russian foreign ministry said that Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel Aziz had visited the embassy and told the Russian ambassador that the Libyan authorities could not guarantee the safety of embassy staff.

However, Mr Abdel Aziz has denied making the remarks. In an interview for BBC News, he said he had suggested to the ambassador that the Russians move to a different location such as another compound or a hotel "as a precautionary measure".

Two Libyans, he added, were fatally injured outside the embassy during the night.

The report of two deaths outside the embassy could not be verified by witnesses who spoke to the BBC an hour after the attack.

map of Libya

A BBC producer at the scene saw no sign or heard any talk of anyone having been shot.

Libya's central government has struggled to tackle the presence of armed militias since Muammar Gaddafi's death in 2011.

The Russian ministry added that it had information that the attackers had been seeking to avenge the killing of an unnamed "Libyan officer" on Tuesday and the stabbing of the man's mother, who survived.

It said a Russian woman, whose name it gave, had been arrested for that attack and was being held in custody in Libya.

There are conflicting reports about the relationship between the alleged killer and the dead man, the BBC's Rana Jawad reports from Tripoli.

According to one version she was the victim's wife, while a local militia accused her of having killed the man because he had supported the uprising against Gaddafi.

She was captured by the militia while trying to escape from the scene of the killing, local media say.

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