Italy shuts Tripoli embassy as Libyan conflict ''deteriorating''

Italy closed its embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli Sunday following security concerns, as a result of a "deteriorating" Libyan conflict, while Italians residing in Libya were evacuated and shipped back to their country, media reported.

IANS| Updated: Feb 16, 2015, 05:24 AM IST

Rome: Italy closed its embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli Sunday following security concerns, as a result of a "deteriorating" Libyan conflict, while Italians residing in Libya were evacuated and shipped back to their country, media reported.

"Temporary closure of our embassy took place timely... the closure was necessary because of the deteriorating situation in Libya," Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in a statement, according to Xinhua. 

Around 70 Italian nationals left Libya on a vessel bound for Sicily, escorted by an Italian navy ship and an air force Predator aircraft, LA7 television said.

Last week the Italian foreign ministry advised its citizens to temporarily leave the conflict-torn Libya as the Islamic State (IS) militant group appeared to be making headway and the security situation deteriorated.

In another example of the worsening situation in the conflict-ridden Libya, the IS claimed in a video Sunday to have executed 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians abducted in Libya.

The Egyptians were abducted in the Libyan city of Sirte in two separate incidents in December and January, only a week apart from each other.

Gentiloni said that the Italian parliament would start discussing the situation in Libya Thursday. Italy was willing to do its part in Libya under a legal framework established by the UN, he added.

In an interview with the Il Messaggero newspaper published Sunday, Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti expressed concern over the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalists in Libya, "just 350 km away".

Pinotti said Italy was ready to lead a coalition of countries in Libya to stop the advance of the IS "as an intervention has become urgent".

"Given that we had sent as many as 5,000 troops to Afghanistan, in a country like Libya that concerns us much more closely and where the risk of deterioration is much more worrying for Italy, our mission can be significant and challenging, even numerically," she said.

Asked whether terrorists could reach Italy on migrant boats, Pinotti said this possibility could not be ruled out.

On Sunday, 12 boats carrying more than 1,000 migrants from north African and Middle Eastern countries were rescued south of Lampedusa island, Italy`s southernmost point between Sicily and Libya.

The Italian coast guard was reportedly threatened, while reaching one of the boats off the Libyan coast, by some armed men who demanded that the boat be left with them after the migrants were rescued.

The Italian government led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi last week approved a package of harsh anti-terrorism measures targeting foreign-fighters.

Some 1,800 soldiers will join the 3,000 military personnel already deployed throughout Italy, after at least 15 people have been so far expelled from the country under suspicion of being dangerous to national security.