Turkey urges remaining citizens to leave Libya after airline threat

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 08, 2015 4:32 AM

By Tulay Karadeniz

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey urged all of its remaining citizens to leave Libya amid worsening security in the north African country following a threat made on a Facebook page to shoot down Turkish aircraft.

The warning, published on the Foreign Ministry's website on Wednesday, came a day after Turkish Airlines became the last foreign operator to suspend all flights to Libya.

Also on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry released a statement saying a threat to shoot down Turkish civilian and military aircraft had been posted on a Facebook page allegedly belonging to the Libyan Air Force.

"This irresponsible statement in contravention of international law is totally unacceptable. We strongly condemn this hostile statement targeting Turkey," the Ministry said.

No one from the Libyan Air Force was immediately available to comment.

Turkey has long had strong links with oil-rich Libya, which has been riven with divisions since the fall of strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Although many Turks have already followed previous government warnings and fled the bloodletting sparked by warring factions and an ineffectual central government, others still run restaurants and shops in Libya.

$19 billion of construction projects alone have been mothballed by Turkish firms because of the fighting, according to the Turkey Contractors' Association.

Turkey's recent role in Libya has stirred ill-feeling in recent months, however.

The Turkish special representative to Libya became the first envoy publicly to meet with the internationally unrecognized authorities in Tripoli last year, prompting accusations that Ankara is pursuing an Islamist-leaning foreign agenda which has already seen it alienate numerous former allies in the region.

(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Jonny Hogg, writing by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Daren Butler and Toby Chopra)