BEIRUT

Middle East

Scores flee Libya as Tunisia reopens border crossing

Two thousand people took to the streets of Benghazi on Friday to protest against Islamist militants and former rebel militias who have been fighting armed forces and taken over an important military base in the eastern Libyan city. (REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)

RAS JEDIR, Tunisia: Tunisia briefly reopened its main border crossing with Libya Saturday, allowing some 200 people fleeing unrest to enter its territory, a day after violence prompted its closure.

Fifty vehicles with Libyan plates were seen crossing over the border into Tunisia over a period of about an hour in the morning, and some people carrying luggage did so on foot before the post was shut again.

A security official at the Ras Jedir checkpoint, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tunisia would alternate between opening and closing the crossing, without specifying why or at which intervals.

The authorities closed the crossing at midday Friday after Libyan border guards fired warning shots to keep back a crowd of people trying to enter Tunisia in order to escape violence.

The Tunisian government has urged its estimated 50,000 to 60,000 nationals in neighbouring Libya to leave "as soon as possible" because of violence that has raged there since mid-July.

Libya has suffered chronic insecurity since a revolt in 2011, with the government unable to check militias that helped to oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi and facing a growing threat from Islamists.

Fighting between rival militias in Tripoli has forced the closure of the city's international airport, while Islamist militants are battling the armed forces in the eastern city of Benghazi.

In the past week, many countries have ordered their citizens to leave and, in some cases, have evacuated them.

 

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