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Foreigners flee Libya by ship, plane, car
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has urged his supporters to strike back against the Libyan protesters, escalating a crackdown that has led to widespread shooting in the streets. Nearly 300 people have been killed in the nationwide wave of anti-government protests.
A Bulgaria Air plane carrying 110 Bulgarians and six Romanians from Tripoli — mostly medical and construction workers — arrived in Sofia. Some passengers said they had heard gunfights.
“I saw horror,” a nurse who gave only her first name, Polly, told reporters.
“We decided to return because the situation is unstable. When we left Tripoli, there was some kind of euphoria; everybody was celebrating some kind of victory,” engineer Natalia Vakova said. “But that’s Libya — absolutely unpredictable.”
The first planeload of Russians to be evacuated landed in Moscow, bringing 118 Russians. Three more planes are expected later Wednesday. A ship also was setting sail for Ras Lanuf, the site of Libya‘s largest refinery and port, to evacuate up to 1,000 Russians, Turks, Serbs and Montenegrins there.
Two French military planes evacuated 335 French people and 56 foreigners to Paris from Libya, and a third plane was en route from France to evacuate French tourists.
Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Christoph Prommersberger said a Dutch KDC-10 air force transport plane left Tripoli late Tuesday with 32 Dutch evacuees and 50 other nationalities.
“What we hear from our people is it is chaotic but functioning,” he said of the Tripoli airport.
British Airways and Emirates, the Middle East’s largest airline, canceled flights to Tripoli on Tuesday. Unease over the safety of U.S. citizens intensified after failed attempts to get some out on Monday and Tuesday.
Britain is redeploying a warship, the HMS Cumberland, off the Libyan coast for a possible seaborne evacuation of British citizens.
Italians continued to take Alitalia flights from Tripoli home, and a few hundred already have returned to Italy. An Italian air force plane landed in Libya on Wednesday to evacuate more people.
Separately, two Italian naval vessels were headed to eastern Libyan ports to rescue citizens from Benghazi and other cities where airports are damaged. Italian citizens based in Misurata, Libya, said their private company was arranging evacuation by sea because the airfield at that coastal city was damaged by the protests.
About 450 Romanians were in the process of being evacuated, but some lived far away from Tripoli, and it was not clear how they would get to the Libyan capital. Germany also was trying to evacuate about 150 Germans still there.
Associated Press writers across Europe contributed to this report.
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