1st Ld: U.S. closes embassy in Libya, evacuates staffers

WASHINGTON, July 26 (Xinhua) -- The United States closed its embassy in Libya and evacuated staffers there to neighboring Tunisia out of security concern, the State Department said Saturday.

"Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya," spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

U.S. personnel at the Tripoli embassy left Tripoli around dawn and traveled by road to neighboring Tunisia under military escort, according to Harf. The news was not released until all the staff were safe at Tunisia.

"Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly," Harf said.

She said U.S. diplomats will continue to work on Libya issues in Tunis, Washington, or elsewhere in North Africa.

The Obama administration has been particularly sensitive about the security of its diplomatic mission in Libya since then ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya's second city Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.