USS Bataan heading to Libya to assist with potential evacuations, report says

The USS Bataan on deployment. (U.S. Navy)

The USS Bataan on deployment. (U.S. Navy)

Norfolk, Va. – The Norfolk-based amphibious assault ship USS Bataan is heading to Libya to assist with possible evacuations from the country.

The Bataan is expected to arrive in several days and is being sent as a precautionary measure according to a report from Agence France-Presse.

The move follows the recent decision to pre-deploy a group of Marines from Spain to Italy to be closer to Libya as militia battles increasingly pull the country into anarchy.

Photos: The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group on deployment
Watch: USNS John Lenthall plows through high seas after refueling the USS Bataan
Time-lapse video: The USS Bataan transits the Suez Canal
Time-lapse video: The USS Bataan conducts a replenishment-at-sea
Video: The USS Bataan refueling at sea during a storm

The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are comprised of the USS Bataan, USS Mesa Verde, and the USS Gunston Hall.

Libya’s interim parliament Sunday approved a new government, led by Prime Minister Ahmed Mitig, in a controversial vote that threatens to deepen the country’s political and security crisis.

A total of 83 of 93 members present voted in favor of Mitig’s government.

Lawmakers in the Islamist-dominated General National Congress (GNC) defied a threat issued by militias allied with renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who promised to storm, raid and arrest members.

The threat was issued by the same group that attacked the GNC headquarters in Tripoli last week, triggering fighting across the capital that left at least four people dead and dozens injured.

Shortly before the vote in parliament, the EU’s special envoy to Libya described the situation as the country’s worst crisis since 2011.

“This is the worst crisis Libya has known since the war. Political forces should understand the anxiety of the Libyan people, who expect effective solutions for their daily concerns and problems,” Bernardino Leon told reporters.

Leon called on politicians to work inclusively and democratically for a political road map and to “enable peaceful early parliamentary elections.”

Also Sunday, the outgoing culture minister warned the GNC’s insistence on confirming Mitig’s government could lead to more violence.

“Today the GNC is beating the drums of war. They want to drive the country into an armed conflict for power after all peaceful and political means have been exhausted … They are leading the country into a direct confrontation,” Al-Habeeb al-Amin told Libya al-Ahrar TV.

Mitig, a businessman from the city of Misrata, was chosen to form a cabinet earlier this month in a disputed vote pushed through by the Islamist blocs.

For months, divisions between Islamists and more moderate blocs within the GNC have nearly paralyzed the political process and increased tensions in the country among militias affiliated with the different parties.

The emergence of Haftar and his self-declared Libyan National Army escalated tensions last week, as the retired general called for the overthrow of the GNC he described as “illegitimate.”

Haftar also launched what he called an open-ended war on Islamist extremist groups and vowed to “purge” Libya of them. His campaign has widened divisions in the country with Islamist and anti-Islamist camps.

In an effort to try to ease tensions, Libya’s electoral commission announced early elections will be held on June 25.

On Friday, Libyans rallied in Tripoli, Benghazi and other Libyan cities in support of the campaign led by Haftar. While some Libyans don’t back the ex-general and don’t want want military rule, they support what he is doing.

But some say his campaign is an opportunistic strategy capitalizing on growing discontent in Libya with a weak central government and a deteriorating security situation.

Haftar was once a general in the Libyan army under dictator Moammar Gadhafi but had a falling out with him and immigrated to the United States, where he lived for almost 20 years. He returned in 2011 to participate in the revolution that overthrew Gadhafi.

CNN contributed to this report.

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