Information for Travelers
Travel Warning - Libya
September 16, 2015
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Libya and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Libya depart immediately. On July 26, 2014, the U.S. Embassy suspended all embassy operations in Libya and relocated staff outside of the country because of ongoing violence between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the Embassy. The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. If in Libya, make contingency emergency plans and maintain security awareness at all times. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on January 20, 2015.
Please direct inquiries regarding U.S. citizens in Libya to LibyaEmergencyUSC@state.gov. Callers in the United States and Canada may dial the toll free number 1-888-407-4747. Callers outside the United States and Canada may dial 1-202-501-4444.
Recent worldwide terrorism alerts, including the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution, have stated that extremist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East region, including Libya.
The Libyan government has not been able to build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution. Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, U.S. and UN-designated terrorists, and other armed groups, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation. Crime levels remain high in many parts of the country. In addition to the threat of crime, the threat of kidnapping is high and various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in Libya.
The internationally recognized House of Representatives has relocated to Tobruk, and its government is based in Bayda. Government authorities lack control over much of the country. Tripoli and its environs are controlled by a coalition of militias known as Operation Dawn, and affiliated authorities calling themselves the “National Salvation Government.”
Clashes are ongoing throughout the country and attacks by armed groups can occur nationwide. Hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire. Tripoli and other urban areas have witnessed fighting between armed groups and government forces as well as terrorist attacks. Checkpoints controlled by militias are common outside of Tripoli, as well as inside the capital at times. Most international airports are closed, and flights out of operational airports are sporadic and may be cancelled without warning. The United States is very concerned about the targeting of commercial transportation in Libya. The U.S. government prohibits U.S. commercial aviation operations within Libyan airspace.
Along with airports, seaports and roads can close with little or no warning. The escalation of violence in Libya against civilian commercial interests raises serious concerns about the safety of maritime vessels and their crew. U.S. mariners are advised to exercise extreme caution while transiting in or near Libyan territorial waters. The Libyan National Army announced on January 7, 2015 that all vessels in Libyan waters require army approval for transit, following the January 4, 2015 bombing of a Greek-operated oil tanker that killed two crewmen near Derna, Libya. Vessels are advised to proceed with extreme caution when approaching all Libyan oil terminals and ports and are encouraged to adhere to the recommendations in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Port Security Advisory 1-14 issued April 1, 2014. Mariners planning travel to Libya should check the U.S. Coast Guard Homeport Website for any Port Security Advisory Updates and the NGA Broadcast Warnings Website (select “Broadcast Warnings”) for any special warnings or Maritime Administration Advisories before arrival.
Violent extremist activity in Libya remains high, and violent extremist groups in Libya have made several specific threats against U.S. government officials, citizens, and interests in Libya. On January 27, 2015, the Corinthia hotel in Tripoli was attacked by a group affiliated with ISIL claiming responsibility, resulting in the death of nine individuals including five foreigners, one of whom was a U.S. citizen. Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S. government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted by violent extremist groups seeking to injure, kidnap or kill U.S. citizens, and should act accordingly with extreme caution. Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country and attacks by armed militants can occur in many different areas; hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire.
Various militias have supplanted the police in maintaining internal security. Militia members operate checkpoints within and between major cities. Libyan militia members are poorly trained and may be unaffiliated with the interim government, which has not yet reconstituted the national army and police. There are frequent reports of violent (and sometimes fatal) clashes between rival militias and occasional reports of vigilante revenge killings. Militia groups sometimes detain travelers for arbitrary or unclear reasons, without access to a lawyer or legal process, and without allowing detainees to inform others of their status. The State Department advises carrying proof of citizenship and valid immigration status at all times, but notes that these documents do not guarantee fair treatment. The State Department has extremely limited capacity to assist U.S. citizens who are detained by militia groups.
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.
If travel in desert and border regions of Libya is critically necessary, exercise caution and comply with local regulations. Terrorist organizations, including ISIL affiliated groups and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, continue to threaten the region. Recent terrorist attacks have occurred in the border region, where extremists have kidnapped Westerners. Please note the travel warnings and alerts for neighboring countries, Algeria, Tunisia, Chad, Niger, and Sudan.
For more information:
- See the State Department's travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Specific Information for Libya.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- As cell phone service is unreliable in Libya, emergency calls may also be placed through the Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.