US Withdraws More Staff from Tripoli Embassy

The United States is withdrawing more staff from its embassy in Tripoli, some two weeks after cutting personnel to emergency levels following an attack on its consulate, officials said Thursday.

"This is a further drawdown of staff for security reasons," a State Department official said, amid reports that more demonstrations are planned in Tripoli and Benghazi on Friday.

"We will review our posture again early next week, with the goal of restoring staff as soon as conditions allow," the official added.

Most American diplomatic staff had already been withdrawn from the embassy in Tripoli, after a September 11 militant attack on the US mission in the eastern city of Benghazi killed four Americans, including the ambassador, Chris Stevens.

All the staff from Benghazi have been sent home, and all non-emergency personnel were flown home from Tripoli the day after the attack, leaving just a skeleton crew behind.

US officials refused to say how many people remained in Tripoli.

It is understood though that the drawdown did not effect a detachment of 50 Marines dispatched to secure the main embassy in Tripoli after the attack.

A message to US citizens posted on the embassy site on Thursday warned of reports of new demonstrations planned in Tripoli and Benghazi on Friday starting around 5:00 pm local time.

"Please avoid the Al-Shajara area in downtown Benghazi, and Martyr's Square in Tripoli," the message said.

"Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable. You should avoid them if at all possible. Be alert and aware of your surroundings, and pay attention to what the local news media has to say."

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