Add Libya to the list of places around the world that are on fire. Over the weekend, U.S. embassy personnel — including the U.S. Ambassador — were quickly evacuated from the country amidst growing instability caused by militias battling the Libyan government.

Heavy clashes in Libya between army troops loyal to a renegade general and Islamist-led militias have killed 38 people—including civilians—in the country’s restive east, health officials said Sunday.

A security official said the fighting involved forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hifter and militias in the eastern city of Benghazi. The clashes started Saturday and continued through early Sunday morning.

The official said commando forces regained control of four military camps captured by Islamist militias in the past few days. Health officials said rockets fired during the fighting hit civilian homes, causing casualties and wounding dozens of people.

Secretary of State John Kerry announced during an overseas trip on Saturday that the United States is temporarily suspending its diplomatic activities in Libya. Diplomats were quickly moved to locations in nearby Tunisia after the militias attacks had struck Tripoli’s airport which is close to the U.S. embassy:

The evacuations of American personnel in Tripoli come on the heels of evacuations from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, as the ISIS Islamist army advances in that country. This begs the question from Republican lawmakers — has United States’ influence collapsed across the Middle East?

“Unfortunately, this development was predictable, given the lack of direction and leadership from this administration since it ousted Moammar Gadhafi,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) held a similar view.

“I am pleased our diplomats are safe,” he said, while adding regional security is faltering across much of North Africa, the Middle East and Eurasia. “This is what happens when the United States is not engaged and lacks a clear foreign policy that includes strong U.S. leadership.”

U.S. diplomats from Libya will continue their work in Tunisia while the situation in Tripoli is monitored closely, according to Secretary Kerry.


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