New State Dept. Libya Travel Warning: Avoid Protests That May Escalate

The State Department issued a new travel warning today for Libya, warning particularly of the danger in Benghazi but noting that ordered departure status has been lifted from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Libya and strongly advises against all but essential travel to Tripoli and all travel to Benghazi, Bani Walid, and southern Libya, including border areas and the regions of Sabha and Kufra. Because of ongoing instability and violence, the Department’s ability to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in these regions of Libya is extremely limited," says the travel warning.

It's an update from the last travel warning issued on Jan. 4.

"As of March 10, the U.S. Embassy in Libya is no longer on ordered departure status but remains an unaccompanied post due to security concerns," the State Department said.

Family members and non-essential personnel were ordered out of the country on Sept. 12, a day after the deadly attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Once such an evacuation status is ordered for a post, according to the State Department, the 180-day limit on the evacuation begins.

As an unaccompanied post, restrictions on family members remain.

Still, the State Department warned, visitors should avoid protests. The White House originally blamed the Benghazi attack on a protest gone awry.

"The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable. 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," the warning said. "U.S. citizens traveling to, or remaining in, Libya should use caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, and maintain security awareness at all times."

The new warning doesn't mention the threat of terrorism or al-Qaeda affiliates.