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Spain announced it was pulling its ambassador and most embassy staff out of Tripoli, a step already taken by the United States. China has chartered a Greek vessel to evacuate hundreds of Chinese citizens, and the Philippines is working to get out some 13,000 Filipino workers inside Libya.

Libyans pleaded for the West for help on Thursday.

“We need NATO to intervene to stop those responsible for the attacks that hurt civilians,” said Aboharba AL Sedek, who lives on the outskirts of Tripoli. “There shouldn’t be armed militias in the capital. I fear that we are going to lose our nation as well as our people.”

Libya has failed to install a stable democratic government or effective security force since Mr. Gadhafi’s ouster. The country’s second prime minister, Ali Zeidan, was briefly kidnapped in 2013. An interim government, failing to unify the country, had been paying rival militias to maintain security in recent months. Now those militias are turning on the government and each other.

Libyans don’t see how they can reach a peaceful democratic solution to the fighting or avoid a humanitarian crisis without international intervention.

“The international community should act strongly to stop the spreading of violence,” said Nada Alzaher, who lives in Zawiya, about 30 miles west of Tripoli. “I’m afraid that it will spread across Libya and that I will have to leave my home and become a refugee.”

Political activist Mabruk Swayah said Libya cannot practice democracy on its own. He feared the oil-rich country could become a base for well-funded terrorists to operate throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean.

The country already has sent well-armed jihadists to Iraq, Syria and other countries where Islamic militants have taken root, he said. Now the militias that claim to control Benghazi have access to military barracks, tanks, rockets and ample ammunition.

“Libya is simply a collection of fractious tribes and, not surprisingly, they have been battling for power ever since [the revolution],” Mr. Swayah said. “Afterward, Libya became the region’s arms supermarket, helping to destabilize the whole region. And now Libya is more dangerous than ever.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.