Esam Omran al-Fetori/Reuters

Philippines evacuating workers from Libya after beheading, gang rape

Hundreds of people killed or wounded in weeks-long fighting between rival militias over Tripoli airport

The Philippines' top diplomat said Thursday he was on his way to evacuate thousands of workers from Libya after a construction worker was beheaded and a nurse gang-raped amid the worsening turmoil in the country.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said he would fly to Tunisia's Djerba island near the Libyan border to help arrange the departure of about 13,000 Filipino workers from the Libyan cities of Benghazi, Misrata and the capital, Tripoli. They will be brought by chartered ships to Malta, where they can take flights to Manila.

If access to the Tripoli port proved to be difficult, the Filipinos would be moved by land to Tunisia, said del Rosario. He also led a dangerous mission to evacuate Filipinos when a civil war broke out in Libya in 2011.

The Philippines is among the world's top labor exporters, with about a tenth of its 100 million people working abroad to support their families and Manila's economy with the money they send home.

A Filipino construction worker in Libya was beheaded two weeks ago and a nurse was abducted and gang-raped Wednesday, ratcheting up concerns over the safety of Filipinos there.

"Our major challenge, as in 2011, is to convince our folks that they must leave Libya at the soonest time to avoid the perils of a highly exacerbating situation there," del Rosario said.

Up to 6,000 Libyan nationals have fled every day into neighboring Tunisia this week, according to Tunisia's foreign minister. It is the largest exodus since the civil war and is due to rising violence as rival militias battle to control Tripoli's airport.

Nearly 100 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the weeks-long violence. Much of the capital's international airport has been destroyed, and a giant fire at the airport oil depot has forced nearby residents to evacuate.

The U.S. ambassador, along with many other diplomats, has been pulled out of Libya since the recent fighting began.

The country's instability is largely the result of rival militias fighting for control in the aftermath of Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster in 2011. Military and security forces have maintained little control of the country since the revolution, and Islamist politicians and their opponents have been vying for leadership of the government.

Libya's interim government has remained paralyzed by the violence, which threatens to force the cancellation of the Aug. 4 opening session of the newly elected parliament.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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