World / ANN

South Korea to close Libya mission

(Asia News Network) Updated: 2015-04-16 15:40

South Korea plans to close its embassy and extract staff from Libya in the face of heightened security concerns following a recent deadly attack on the mission, officials said Tuesday.

Political affairs and consular services will continue in Tunisia, where the embassy was transferred last July. Two diplomats who have since been shuttling between the two countries for alternate two-week stays will also stay in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, while further discussions are needed on how to maintain the remaining facilities in Tripoli.

A group of armed gunmen fired 40 machine gun rounds while driving past the embassy early Sunday, killing two Libyan police officers and injuring another. The Tripoli chapter of the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility via Twitter, saying it had "removed" two guards.

"The relocation will be temporary. Unlike Yemen, where Koreans were recently evacuated to a nearby warship, commercial airlines fly to Tripoli so we can use them when necessary," a Foreign Ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"With the latest attack on the Moroccan Embassy, the future situation is difficult to predict. The Tripoli mission is there to ensure the safety of our citizens but security conditions are increasingly grave."

The decision came one day after the ministry convened a meeting to assess the situation in the region and look into ways to better protect its staff and some 35 South Koreans remaining in the conflict-laden North African country in cooperation with eight other agencies.

Yet the ministry came under fire after falsely briefing reporters that following the incident, the situation was being managed by Seoul's Ambassador to Libya Lee Jong-kook in Tunis, but Lee was found to have returned home because his term ended March 31. His successor, Kim Young-chae, arrived in Tripoli on Monday.

The ministry apologized for what they called a "mistake" resulting from insufficient preparations for the briefing.

"I've made a mistake as we have mainly been communicating with those on the ground, rather than in Tunis, under the quickly changing situation," the official added.

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