Benghazi Threat Not Made Public

Amid conflict in West Africa, come threats to Westerners in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. British, German and Dutch citizens have been urged to leave Benghazi. It's been the focus of partisan controversy in the U.S. as Congress tries to determine what caused the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission there that killed four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Let's get a closer look this morning at some of the extremists groups operating in North Africa.

MONTAGNE: It's hard to gauge their strength and reach but they have seized the world's attention with a series of deadly events - a rebellion in Mali, a hostage crisis in Algeria, and before that an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

INSKEEP: If Western intelligence agencies are right, somebody wants to strike again in Benghazi. British, German and Dutch citizens are being warned to leave for their safety. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson starts our coverage.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: How many citizens from each of the three countries are in Benghazi is unclear, although the number is likely low. The coastal city that is home to about a million people is a business hub where foreigners work. It's the birthplace of Libya's revolution that led to the ouster of the late Moammar Qadhafi.

His supporters, as well as religious extremists, are blamed for the deteriorating security in Benghazi since then. Attacks in recent months have driven many foreigners away. In September, militants killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in the city.

Earlier this month, Italy suspended its consular activities in Benghazi after one of its diplomat's cars was fired on. Last week's al-Qaida siege of an Algerian gas plant at which hundreds of foreigners worked is heightening fears that similar attacks could happen in neighboring Libya.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry in a statement warned that staying in Benghazi was, quote, "not to be advised," while the Germans and British on their foreign ministry websites, urged their citizens to leave immediately. David Lidington is a British Foreign Office minister and member of parliament who spoke with the BBC.

DAVID LIDINGTON: Although Benghazi has been a risky city for some time and we advise British people not to go there, we now have credible, serious and specific reports about a possible terrorist threat. That's why we are advising British citizens who are in Benghazi to leave.

NELSON: A Libyan official told the BBC that the European warnings to its citizens were overblown. And the U.S. State Department, while advising against travel to Benghazi, said it had no information about any specific, imminent threats against Americans there. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin.

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