Union Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Sunday said India has evacuated its contingent of 15 Central Reserve Police Force personnel from Tripoli after the “situation in Libya suddenly worsened”. Libya has faced political instability and violence for several years now.
The announcement came hours after violence erupted in Libyan capital Tripoli following clashes between rebel and government forces. Swaraj said the evacuation was carried out by the Indian Embassy in Tunisia, which is also in charge of Libya. The CRPF contingent was deployed as a peacekeeping force, Swaraj said.
The minister added: “All Indians in distress in Tripoli may please contact Mr. Mehtab on +218916320278 or Mr. Mustafa on +218924201771 or +218912146640.”
The crisis in Libya began with the Arab Spring protests in 2011, which was followed by a civil war. Foreign militaries intervened and helped oust the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi. Years of instability followed, with a second civil war breaking out in 2014. The United Nations brokered a ceasefire agreement in December 2015, after which a new government, the Government of National Accord, was put in place, with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj as its head. However, the GNA, which is based in western Libya’s Tripoli, has not received popular support.
Several militia groups have sided with the Libyan National Army, which is based in Tobruk and is strong in eastern Libya. Its commander, General Khalifa Haftar, is an anti-Islamist with strong ties in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, according to the BBC.
On Thursday, Sarraj, in a televised address, accused Haftar of launching a coup and warned of “a war without a winner”.
“We have extended our hands towards peace but after the aggression that has taken place on the part of forces belonging to Haftar, he will find nothing but strength and firmness,” Sarraj said, adding that he had offered concessions to Haftar to avoid bloodshed but was “stabbed in the back”.
The Libyan National Army has reportedly carried out several attacks from the south and west of Tripoli but Government of National Accord forces and their allies, some militias, have slowed down the advance, according to the BBC. The LNA also said it had seized the international airport near Tripoli, which has not been in use for several months now.
Residents of Tripoli, concerned that large-scale fighting can break out soon, have begun stocking up on food and essentials.