British ambassador quits Tripoli as fighting spreads

Britain's Ambassador to Libya, Michael Aron, arrives at Mitiga International Airport on June 10, 2014 (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia )

London (AFP) - Britain's ambassador to Libya has said he had "reluctantly" decided to leave the embassy in Tripoli due to local fighting, as the security situation deteriorates.

The embassy planned to suspend operations temporarily from Monday and had been arranging departure plans for British nationals.

However, ambassador Michael Aron said Friday he had decided to leave early.

"Reluctantly we've decided we have to leave and temporarily suspend embassy operations in Libya. We will be back as soon as security allows," Aron said on Twitter.

"Fighting has spread to where we live in Suraj and the risk of getting caught in the crossfire is too great. Very sad."

He said they planned to set up a temporary office in neighbouring Tunisia.

"We will be back. Despite everything I have faith in Libya and its wonderful people," he said.

The Foreign Office is strongly urging any British nationals in Libya to "leave immediately" by commercial means.

Libya has suffered chronic insecurity since dictator Moamer Kadhafi's overthrow in 2011, with the new government unable to check militias that helped to remove him and facing a growing threat from Islamist groups.

Fighting between rival militias in Tripoli has forced the closure of the city's international airport, while Islamist groups are battling army special 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.