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France follows UK, others in Benghazi exodus

PARIS -- France on Friday joined Britain, other European states and Australia in pulling its nationals out of Benghazi because of a terrorist threat that the Libyan government has played down.

Having insisted Thursday there was no “no new intelligence” to justify the Europeans' concerns, Libya said Friday it had not been informed of their plans to pull citizens out of the country's second city and was seeking clarification from Britain.

France, whose military action in Mali is said to have provoked the threat, confirmed Friday that it had followed the lead from Britain.

“The information we had on the threats was sufficiently reliable to justify telling our nationals to leave the region,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot.

France has only around 40 citizens in Benghazi out of 250-300 in Libya as a whole. In an updated travel advisory, the foreign ministry said French nationals should avoid eastern Libya altogether.

Australia's department of foreign affairs had earlier issued a statement saying: “We are aware of a specific, imminent threat to Westerners in Benghazi. All Australians in Benghazi should leave immediately.

“There is a risk of retaliatory attacks against Western targets in Libya following the French intervention in the conflict in Mali in January 2013.”

Benghazi was the cradle of the uprising that ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and also the city where a U.S. ambassador was killed in an attack last September.

Germany and the Netherlands followed Britain in telling their citizens to get out of Libya, prompting an astonished response from the north African country's deputy interior minister, Abdullah Massoud.

“If Britain was afraid of threats to its citizens, it could have pulled them out quietly without causing all the commotion and excitement,” Massud said Friday, according to the Lana news agency.

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