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May 20th, 2014
04:41 AM ET

Libya Evacuation Decision 'Minute by Minute,' U.S. Official Says

The U.S. military has doubled the number of aircraft standing by in Italy if needed to evacuate Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, CNN has learned.

A decision to evacuate as violence in the Libyan capital grows is "minute by minute, hour by hour," a defense official told CNN on Monday.

Fierce fighting swept across the city Sunday after armed men stormed the country's interim Parliament. Sporadic bursts of gunfire and blasts could still be heard on the outskirts of the capital Monday evening.

The violence appeared to be some of the worst since the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

In a move that could further inflame an already tense situation, the speaker of the interim parliament, Nuri Abu Sahmain, who is backed by Islamist forces, ordered troops known as the "Central Libya Shield Forces" to deploy to the capital Monday, the Libyan state news agency LANA reported.

The forces, mostly from the city of Misrata, east of Tripoli, are considered to be among the most powerful Islamist-affiliated militias. They have had long-running rivalries with the heavily armed Zintan militias when both groups were based in the capital.

Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to Libya announced that his country's embassy and consulate in Tripoli closed Monday because of the violence, and the staff has left Tripoli, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The sites will reopen when the situation stabilizes, Ambassador Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Ali said, according to the report.

Turkey took similar measures, shutting down its consulate in Benghazi, Turkey's semi-official Anadolu news agency reported.

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