The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 24, 2013

Dutch, Britons, Germans warned to leave Benghazi

(Continued)

Adel Mansouri, principal of the International School of Benghazi, said U.K. and foreign nationals were warned in the last few days about a possible threat to Westerners.

He said the school's teachers were given the option of leaving but decided to stay. The school has some 540 students. Most are Libyan with some 40 percent who hold dual nationality. Less than 5 percent are British while 10 to 15 students have U.S.-Libyan nationality, Mansouri said. Classes were not due to resume until Sunday because of a holiday Thursday.

"We told the British ambassador we are staying, and we'll be in touch," said Mansouri, himself a Libyan-British dual national. "We don't see a threat on the ground."

Saleh Gawdat, a Benghazi lawmaker, said French doctors who were working in Benghazi hospitals have left the city and that the French cultural center has closed out of concerns about potential retaliation over the French-led military intervention in nearby Mali, which began two weeks ago.

Violence in Benghazi has targeted both foreigners as well as Libyan officials in recent months — with assassinations, bombings and other attacks.

In addition to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission, an Italian diplomat's car was fired on by militants in Benghazi. The consul, Guido De Sanctis, wasn't injured in the attack earlier this month, but the incident prompted Italy to order the temporary suspension of its consular activities in the city and send its foreign staff home.

Islamist extremists are often blamed for targeting security officials who worked under Gadhafi, as a kind of revenge for torturing or imprisoning them in the past. Many city residents also blame Gadhafi loyalists who they say are trying to undermine Libya's new leaders by sowing violence.

Ibrahim Sahd, a Benghazi-based lawmaker and politician, said that the new government is putting together a plan to beef up security in the city and this "might have worried the Westerners of a backlash."

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