RAF planes in Libya desert rescue

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Two RAF Hercules jets have evacuated more than 150 civilians from Libya

Two RAF Hercules aircraft have evacuated more than 150 civilians to Malta from desert locations south of Benghazi in Libya, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said.

Meanwhile, the operations of the British Embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, have been temporarily suspended and its staff have been evacuated on the last Government-chartered flight, which took off for London’s Gatwick Airport with 53 British nationals on board, the Foreign Office said.

The dramatic evacuation came as Britain worked with international partners on a co-ordinated rescue mission for the last foreign nationals stranded in the North African state amid fast-deteriorating security conditions.

Dr Fox said: “I can confirm that two RAF C130 Hercules aircraft have evacuated more than 150 civilians from desert locations south of Benghazi.”

He added that the frigate HMS Cumberland was on her way back to Benghazi from Malta to evacuate any remaining “entitled persons” from there. Cumberland has already evacuated 207 British and other citizens to Malta.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the Hercules planes were being met by a team of consular officials and Red Cross staff in Valletta and would return to the UK in the next two days.

The spokeswoman said the last Foreign Office charter flight had left Tripoli and was expected to arrive at Gatwick Airport carrying about 100 passengers, 53 of them British.

“In light of the deteriorating situation in Libya, and as our last FCO charter flight has now left Tripoli, we have temporarily suspended the operations of the British Embassy in Tripoli,” said the spokeswoman. “Its staff left today – some of them, with our Rapid Deployment Team from Tripoli Airport, on that charter flight.

“Temporary consular arrangements are being put in place. The Turkish government will now temporarily represent British interests in Libya.

“The British pro consul, Lauren Johnstone, will remain in Tripoli and will work closely with the Turkish Embassy. A number of other countries have already suspended the operation of their missions in Tripoli, including the United States and Australia. We continue to urge any remaining British citizens in Libya who have not done so already to provide the Foreign Office with their names, location and contact details immediately.”

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