Saudi Arabia closed its embassy and consulate in the Libyan capital and withdrew all of its diplomatic staff on Monday due to security concerns, the ambassador said.
“All the diplomatic staff has left the Libyan capital aboard a private plane due to the security situation through which Libya is passing,” ambassador Mohammed Mahmoud al-Ali said in a statement reported on the state news agency SPA.
Heavily armed gunmen stormed Libya’s parliament on Sunday demanding its suspension and claiming loyalty to a renegade army general who has vowed to purge the country of Islamist militants.
Smoke rose over parliament after gunmen attacked and then withdrew, and gunfire erupted across Tripoli, where rival militias clashed in some of the worst violence in the city since the end the 2011 war against Muammar Gaddafi.
Details of who was involved Sunday’s chaotic attack were unclear, but loyalists of retired General Khalifa Haftar said his forces and militia allies had planned the parliament assault in a campaign to rid Libya of Islamist hardliners.
“We announce the freezing of the GNC,” said Colonel Mukhtar Fernana, a former military police officer from the Zintan region, reading out a statement on al-Ahrar TV.
Haftar’s spokesman Mohamed al-Hejazi said Fernana’s group was allied to the former general.
Fernana said their movement was not a coup, but said the parliament had no legitimacy and should hand over power to a 60-member body that was recently elected to rewrite Libya’s constitution.
It was not immediately clear how much backing Haftar’s men had within Libya’s nascent regular armed forces and the country’s powerful brigades of former rebels or whether the parliament was fully under government control after the attack.
The attackers kidnapped about 10 employees from the GNC, an official said. At least two people were killed and another 55 wounded in the violence, officials said.
Justice Minister Saleh al-Mergani condemned the assault on parliament and rejected the group’s demands.
“The government demands an immediate stop to military action and use of force to express political opinion,” he told a news conference calling for dialogue.
After Gaddafi, Libya’s fragile democracy has hobbled from crisis to crisis with the country on its third prime minister since March, its new constitution unwritten and its parliament caught up in constant infighting.
The parliament has been paralysed by rivalries between the Islamists tied to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and a nationalist movement, leaving many Libyans frustrated over lack of progress since the war.
Many former rebel fighters have been put on the government payroll to provide security to ministries and offices, but they often remain more loyal to commanders, political allies or their regional tribes than the state.