The State Department issued a new travel warning for Libya on Wednesday, citing "ongoing instability and violence" and strongly advising against all travel to the eastern city of Benghazi, where the U.S. Consulate was attacked by terrorists Sept. 11.
The warning supersedes a similar notice issued by the State Department a day after the attack, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, and State Department officer Sean Smith died.
"The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable," the new warning states. "Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country. U.S. citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations, as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence."
In a separate development Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was seen leaving New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where she had been since Sunday receiving treatment for a blood clot inside her skull.
Doctors have said that the clot did not result in a stroke or neurological damage, and that they expect Mrs. Clinton to recover fully.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Mrs. Clinton remains open to testifying before Congress about security failures leading up to the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack, although it is not clear when such testimony will occur.
Department officials are working with lawmakers to schedule Mrs. Clinton's appearance, Ms. Nuland said.
Mrs. Clinton had been slated to testify in late December after the release of an internal State Department report on the Benghazi attack concluded that senior department officials ignored intelligence and security warnings that might have prevented the attack.
She canceled the testimony after dehydration from a stomach virus caused her to faint and hit her head, which subsequently led to the blood clot.
Meanwhile, the State Department's latest travel warning comes after a month that saw several clashes between Libyan authorities and armed militant groups.
According to a report by the Reuters news agency citing security sources, four people were killed Dec. 20, when Libyan government forces clashed with armed demonstrators outside a police station in Benghazi.
The sources said the violence is believed to be linked to the recent detention of two men suspected of being involved in several assassinations of security officials in Benghazi.
The State Department ordered all non-emergency U.S. government personnel to depart Libya following the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomat post in the city.
Wednesday's warning advised against all but essential travel to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, and all travel to southern Libya, Benghazi and Bani Walid, a town outside Tripoli.
The warning also follows a scathing report released Monday by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that asserts that the State Department should have closed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi before the Sept. 11 attack because it knew that local authorities could not protect the facility and that the city is a hotbed of extremism.
Titled "Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi," the bipartisan report concludes that there were no contingency plans to get military help to Benghazi in the event of an attack against U.S. facilities.
The report adds to an already tense political situation surrounding the handling of the Benghazi incident by the Obama administration, which was slow to characterize the incident as the work of terrorists.
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