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American troops in Libya moved out of country as violence escalates near capital




Libyan National Army members, commanded by Khalifa Haftar, pose as they head out of Benghazi to reinforce the troops advancing to Tripoli on Sunday. (Esam Omran Al-Fetori / Reuters)

American forces currently operating inside Libya have relocated temporarily outside the country, due to growing unrest in the Libyan capital, the U.S. military's top commander for Africa said Sunday.

"The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable," Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, said in a statement Sunday.

The contingent of U.S. forces present in Libya provides military support for counterterrorism activities and diplomatic missions and works to improve security in the region, the statement said. Waldhauser did not discuss where the U.S. forces have been relocated

The announcement comes as the UN-backed government in Tripoli to defend the capital against a renegade militia seeking to storm its way into the city, a showdown threatened to play in urban urban combat in the streets of Tripoli

On Saturday, fighters loyal to warlord Khalifa Hifter said they had overrun the airport, on the southern edge of the city. But forces for the UN-backed government mounted a counter-attack by the airforce at nightfall.

The airport has been closed since it suffered widespread damage during battles between rival groups in 2014. But it would be a symbolic blow to the government if the site fell to Hifter, who could use it as a key staging ground for further advances.


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