Turkey, Italy plan to evacuate citizens from Libya

Ankara says 3 ships en route for Benghazi to bring home Turks from city hit hardest by deadly protests; Italy sends air force jet.

anti Gaddafi protest 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
anti Gaddafi protest 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Turkey said Tuesday that three ships were en route for Benghazi to evacuate thousands of its citizens from the Libyan city hit hardest by deadly protests against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.
The foreign ministry said two civilian ferries and one military ship are expected to reach Benghazi on Tuesday. It could not say how many people are on the urgent list for evacuation but says thousands of them have gathered at a stadium in Benghazi.
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Turkey's Anatolia news agency, citing unnamed officials, said about 25,000 Turks live and work in Libya, where dozens of Turkish construction companies have been active for decades.
Italy on Tuesday was also evacuating citizens from the North African country and said it sent an air force jet to Benghazi.
Italian state radio said Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa made the announcement to reporters in Abu Dhabi, where he was on an official visit.
The C-130 transport aircraft will evacuate roughly 100 citizens from Benghazi.
Italy, with large energy interests in Libya, has some 1,500 citizens living or working in the country. Some citizens have been leaving in recent days aboard regularly scheduled commercial flights from Tripoli.
In addition, Egypt also announced plans to evacuate citizens who were caught in the deadly revolt against Gaddafi.
An Egyptian security official said that about 5,000 Egyptians returned home from Libya by land and about 10,000 more are waiting to cross the Libya-Egypt border.
Egypt said it will send six commercial and two military planes to repatriate thousands more citizens in Libya.
Egypt's foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit accused Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam of inciting against Egyptians by suggesting they joined the protests against his father.
The security official said Egyptian troops have beefed up their presence on the border with Libya and set up a field hospital there. He did not give details and spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to share such information.
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Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East