Francois Mori / AP Photo

Libya militia group 'secures' US embassy in Tripoli

The US had previously evacuated staff from the embassy residential compound after nearby fighting intensified

A militia group has "secured" a U.S. Embassy residential compound in Libya's capital, more than a month after American personnel evacuated from the country over ongoing fighting, one of its commanders said Sunday.

An Associated Press journalist walked through the compound Sunday after the Dawn of Libya, an umbrella group for Islamist militias, invited onlookers inside. Some windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched. The journalist saw treadmills, food, televisions, and computers still inside.

A commander for the Dawn of Libya group, Moussa Abu-Zaqia, said his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week, a day after they seized control of the capital and its strategic airport after weeks of fighting with a rival militia. Abu-Zaqia said the rival militia was in the compound before his troops took it over.

A video posted online showed men playing in a pool at the compound. In a message on Twitter, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones said the video appeared to have been shot in at the embassy's residential annex.

She also said it appeared the compound was being "safeguarded" and was not "ransacked."

On July 26, U.S. diplomats evacuated to neighboring Tunisia under a U.S. military escort. The State Department said embassy operations would be suspended until the security situation improved.

Its caution stemmed largely from a deadly 2012 assault on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other U.S. citizens. President Barack Obama's administration faced harsh criticism from Republicans in the attack's aftermath over decisions made about the level of security there.

The Dawn of Libya militia is deployed around the capital and has called on foreign diplomats to return now that the fighting has subsided. 

Thousands of foreign workers and Libyan nationals have fled to neighboring Tunisia since violence escalated in July, before the border was closed on Aug. 1. As a cease-fire ended, the battle between rival militias for control of Tripoli's international airport intensified. Most of the planes were destroyed and a major oil depot caught fire.

Tripoli has largely slipped out of the government's control, and senior officials have been working from Tobruk in the far east, where the new parliament has based itself to escape street fighting in Libya's two biggest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi.

Air strikes were carried out on Tripoli earlier this month by unconfirmed actors, which the White House said consisted of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Both countries have denied any connection to the strikes.

The Associated Press

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