As Libya violence climbs, Turkey steps up evacuation efforts
Turkey has been working hard to evacuate thousands of Turks stranded in Libya, where violence has been raging for days, with Libyan forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi waging a bloody operation to keep him in power, but rescue efforts have proven increasingly difficult. Benghazi Airport was closed to all flights during the day, while in the evening Turkish news channels reported that the Benghazi and Tripoli ports were closed to incoming vessels. Thousands of Turkish workers stranded in Benghazi boarded buses for the port yesterday to wait for the ships. Five planes sent from Turkey on Monday flew 1,083 Turkish citizens back to Turkey, but Turkish planes were not able to get clearance to land at Benghazi Airport yesterday, forcing officials to rely on sea transportation for evacuations. Three ships escorted by the Turkish Naval Forces to Benghazi to evacuate about 3,000 Turkish citizens from the Libyan city hit hardest by deadly protests were expected to arrive yesterday afternoon. "There are 4,857 Turkish citizens in and around Benghazi, and the ships will evacuate about 3,000 of them," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters. The safety of Turkish citizens is the government's top priority in Libya, he added. There were also efforts to bring about 25,000 Turkish citizens to safer parts of the country prior to evacuation. He added Turkey is also evaluating options to evacuate its citizens through Tunisia or Egypt.