Australia on Friday joined three European nations in urging its citizens to leave the Libyan city of Benghazi due to a “specific, imminent threat to Westerners” linked to French action in Mali.
The advice followed similar warnings from governments in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, which sparked an angry response from Libya’s government. Tripoli said there was “no new intelligence” to justify such concerns.
But Australia’s department of foreign affairs said: “We are aware of a specific, imminent threat to Westerners in Benghazi. All Australians in Benghazi should leave immediately.
“There is a risk of retaliatory attacks against Western targets in Libya following the French intervention in the conflict in Mali in January 2013,” it said in an updated travel advice.
“A number of militant groups are known to operate in Libya and some may seek to target Western interests.”
Only two Australians are registered as being in Benghazi and just 22 in Libya, said the department.
The alert came after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to Congress this week about the September attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya.
It also comes as French troops battle Al-Qaeda-linked militants in Mali, amid rising concern about Islamist extremism across north Africa after last week’s bloody attack on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria.