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Libya 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report

Near East > Libya > Tripoli

Libya 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report

 Overall Crime and Safety Situation


Libya witnessed a popular uprising against the regime of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi that lasted from February to October 2011 and included fighting throughout the country. Libya is currently governed by the Transitional National Council and is passing through a post-conflict transition to a new government. Many basic state institutions, including emergency services and tourist facilities, are not yet fully operational. Although active fighting in Libya’s civil war concluded in October 2011, various factions and militias continue to vie for power in the absence of a stable political and security environment, often resulting in violence.

While official statistics are often inaccurate and difficult to access, crime levels in Tripoli have significantly increased with the fall of the Qadhafi regime as local militias are demobilized and there remains an absence of effective security and police structures.  Carjackings, robberies, burglaries, and thefts have noticeably increased in Tripoli. The majority of the 16,000 criminals released by Qadhafi during the revolution have yet to be re-apprehended.  Police and judicial authorities are still in a state of transition, with significant portions of the security infrastructure damaged or destroyed.  The Government of Libya, through the Ministries of Interior and Defense, has embarked on a robust plan to integrate the various militia organizations under the two ministries.  However, reconstitution of police and security remains slow as the Government of Libya tackles a wide range of policy issues in addition to demobilizing and retraining, and re-equipping former militia fighters.

While the Ministry of Interior (MoI) is in the process of absorbing a large percentage of the demobilized militia, many of its records and infrastructure were destroyed during the revolution.  The MoI estimates that only 60% of police have returned to their pre-revolution posts. During the revolution, it is estimated that approximately 16,000 criminals were released from prison by former regime officials. Widespread small arms distribution coupled with lack of employment for former regime supporters, and demobilized or current militia members, has added to the increased crime rate.

Tripoli police do not maintain comprehensive crime statistics for individual neighborhoods and it is difficult to obtain an accurate assessment of the general crime level in Tripoli.  Residential burglary and theft is the most common crime reported by expatriates in Libya.  Burglaries that were reported occurred both during the day and at night.  Rising burglary rates have caused many foreign individuals and companies to invest in residential security measures such as metal grillwork, alarm systems, and anti-climb devices.  Burglars often carry edged weapons both as tools for entry and as a deterrent against uncooperative victims, although an increasing number of criminal assailants have access to small arms looted during the revolution.

Carjacking was a concern in pre-revolution Libya, with a rising incidence of such crimes since October 2011.  A favorite tactic of carjackers is to stop vehicles and victims under the guise of a militia or security checkpoint.  The victims are then separated from their vehicles, often at gunpoint. Several foreigners and international companies in Tripoli have reported carjackings in this manner.  Unfortunately, even ‘legitimate’ checkpoints are not centrally controlled by the Ministry of Interior, adding to the overall confused security environment, and thus the effectiveness of this criminal tactic.

Road Safety

Traffic accidents constitute the most common safety threat for visitors to Libya.  In addition to traffic accidents, there has been an increase in the number of reports of armed highway robberies in both urban and rural areas.  Police do not routinely enforce traffic laws and Libyan drivers are often reckless and inattentive.  It is not uncommon for Libyan drivers to drive through red lights at full speed and swerve across multiple lanes of traffic in order to make turns.  Traffic accidents are the leading cause of accidental death in Libya.

Due to the recklessness of Libyan drivers, short-term visitors are discouraged from driving themselves and are advised to use a reputable limousine service instead.  Many vehicle services have re-opened in Libya while others have begun operating in Libya. Visitors and residents alike should always wear seatbelts, and are strongly encouraged to bring an approved car seat for infants and young children.  Libyans do not generally use seatbelts or infant/child seats.

If driving in Libya is necessary, drive extremely defensively.  Ensure sufficient braking distance and beware of Libyan pedestrians, who often step out in front of oncoming traffic.  Pedestrians may often "challenge" traffic by stepping out into busy streets without warning.  Libyan traffic law stipulates mandatory jail time for any driver who hits a pedestrian; this was perhaps the only Libyan traffic law that was routinely enforced under the prior regime.  As the judicial and law enforcement authorities rebuild and reassert their control, it is likely that non-political prior Qadhafi era laws and regulations such as traffic laws will remain unchanged in the short term.   All visitors are advised to keep windows and doors locked at all times.  Beggars are common at some intersections and they approach stopped vehicles and knock on windows in search of money.

Traffic accidents often attract large crowds of onlookers that can become violent or angry.  Individuals involved in traffic accidents who fear for their safety at the hands of a flash mob are advised to seek the nearest police officer or, if none are present, to leave the scene and travel directly to a safe location.

Individuals who travel outside of major cities are advised to limit their travel to daylight hours and to travel in convoys, if possible.  Many rural roads are unpaved and the majority of roads outside urban areas lack sufficient lighting for nighttime driving.  Major urban highways merge into single-lane roadways outside of city limits and are more dangerous at night and in bad weather.  Motor vehicles share the roads with horse-drawn trailers, farm vehicles, and other slow-moving traffic.  Traffic signals and checkpoints appear frequently and traffic often stops abruptly before them.

Roadside assistance is extremely limited and offered only in Arabic.  Police, fire, and ambulance services operate in and around major cities, although they are poorly equipped and have slow response times.  This response time has lengthened during the post-conflict transition to a new government.  There have been reports of armed highway robberies and carjacking, in both urban and rural areas.  The border areas along the Tunisian / Libyan border are subject to frequent and unannounced closures.  RSO receives numerous reports of widespread smuggling, particularly involving weapons, and clashes between militias and alleged former regime supports along the borders with Algeria, Niger, and Chad.    Unexploded ordinance (UXO) and explosive remnants of war (ERW) remain a significant concern in urban and rural areas,  particularly in areas which saw heavy fighting such as Sirte, Bani Walid, and Misrata.  The former Qadhafi regime deployed significant amounts of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines during the revolution, the whereabouts of which were not well recorded by former regime forces.

The Ministry of the Interior has recently affirmed a Qadhafi era motor vehicle law prohibiting tinted windows in vehicles.  Law enforcement officials have been advised to strictly enforce the ban.  The Ministry of the Interior has reviewed the law amid the growing number of street crimes and car jackings occurring in Tripoli.

Political Violence

Historical perspective

Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi ruled The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya) from 1969 to 2011, in a "state of the masses" that ostensibly governed through direct representation via People's Committees and Congresses.  In 2011, Qadhafi’s autocratic government was brought to an end by an eight-month uprising and ensuing civil war. The country is currently governed by the Transitional National Council (TNC) that emerged from the rebellion and has pledged to turn Libya into a pluralist, democratic state. The TNC and its interim government now face the formidable challenge of imposing order, disbanding the former rebel forces, rebuilding the economy, creating functioning institutions and managing the pledged transition to democracy and the rule of law.  The TNC advised that general elections will take place in June 2012.

Libya is a secular but culturally Islamic state with a legal system based on both Islamic law and Italian colonial law. 

Regional Terrorism and Organized Crime

Libya was removed from the State Department's list of sponsors of terrorism in 2006.  However, extremists groups and persons affiliated with extremist groups participated in fighting against the Ghaddafi regime.  Al-Qaida affiliated groups, including Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and other violent extremist groups are likely to take advantage of the ongoing political turmoil in Libya.  The U.S. government remains concerned that such individuals and groups remain in Libya, engaged in fund-raising, recruitment, procurement of arms, and may use Libya as a platform from which to conduct attacks in the region.

The Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) has historically been active in Libya and was banned worldwide by the UN’s 1267 committee.  Although designated by the U.S. government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, the group denies ever being affiliated with al-Qaeda, stating that it refused to join the global Islamic front when Osama bin Laden declared against the west in 1998In March 2011, members of the LIFG declared that the group supported the revolution against Ghaddafi's rule, and placed themselves under the leadership of the National Transitional Council. LIFG members claimed that the group changed its name to the Libyan Islamic Movement (al-Harakat al-Islamiya al-Libiya), had approximately 500–600 militants released from jail in recent years, and denied any past or present affiliation with Al-Qaeda.   Abdelhakim Belhadj, a senior member of the LIFG, became the commander of the Tripoli Military Council after the rebels took over Tripoli during the 2011 Battle of Tripoli.

Any American citizen who decides to travel to Libya should maintain a high level of awareness, keep a low and inconspicuous profile, vary travel times and routes, and avoid crowds and demonstrations.

Civil Unrest

Following a change of regime and government, the political situation in Libya remains fragile. Many basic state institutions, including emergency services and tourist facilities, are not yet fully operational. Although the security situation appears to have improved, it remains difficult to assess and can change rapidly. Militia members operate checkpoints within and between major cities. Libyan militia members are poorly trained and loosely affiliated with the interim government. In some instances, militias have made arrests on scant evidence and held detainees in substandard conditions. 

Violent clashes between armed groups are possible across the country, particularly at night, and even in those places that have previously avoided conflict. These often include the use of heavy weapons.

Public demonstrations occur frequently in Libya in the central squares of cities, such as Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli and Freedom Square in Benghazi. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid these demonstrations and to take cover if they hear celebratory gun fire.

As in other regions of the world, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli advises American travelers to the region be vigilant in their personal security and to be aware of local events.

Post-Specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Natural disasters are not a major problem in Libya, although there are occasional floods in winter.  The Tripoli coastline is situated above an inactive fault line and most buildings are not designed to western building codes or specifications.

Doing Business in Libya

Sexual harassment of women, property crime, and petty street crime are the most common problems faced by international companies in Libya.  Several other factors make getting along in Libya more difficult than in other North Africa countries: language laws keep English signage to a minimum; there is no street address system; very few Libyans speak English; medical care may be limited and inadequate; the economy is cash-based and ATMs are very rare; and women who adhere to western dress codes may experience harassment unless they opt for more conservative dress.

Libya is in a post-conflict transition period and business procedures and laws may no longer be valid or uniformly enforced throughout Libya.  Local military and city / regional councils exert significantly more influence in the absence of a strong, centralized government. Regional differences and decentralized authorities often results in confusion and fluctuation in the interpretation, application, and enforcement of both criminal and civil laws.

Cash-Only Economy

Libya’s economy operates under a cash-only policy for most transactions.  Some ATMs are available in major hotels, shopping centers and restaurants, although many are not working due to lack of maintenance during the revolution. Much of the banking and commercial infrastructure in Libya is recovering from U.N. sanctions during the civil war and the majority of businesses utilize cash. Travelers should consult their credit card company prior to travel to ensure that transactions in Libya are allowed.  The business workweek is Sunday through Thursday. 


Currently, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli does not issue any visas while it works to reestablish operations in Libya.  Embassy operations were resumed in Tripoli, Libya on September 22, 2011. However, services available to U.S. citizens in Libya are limited to emergency services. Individuals requiring routine consular services or assistance in obtaining immigrant or non-immigrant visas to the United States should apply at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate outside of Libya.

Passports and visas are required for all U.S. citizens traveling to Libya. Currently, Libyan embassies abroad are operating under varying conditions; travelers are encouraged to reach out to the Libyan embassy in the country in which they reside to obtain the latest information on visa procedures. Libyan immigration officials sometimes require endorsement letters from the Transitional National Council as well.

The Government of Libya does not allow persons with passports bearing an Israeli visa or entry/exit stamps from Israel to enter Libya.

Additional information regarding Libya can be found on the Department of State’s Country Specific Information (CSI) sheet:

Private Security Firms

This issue of private security firms operating in Libya is a particularly sensitive one for the TNC given Ghadafi’s use of foreign mercenaries during the revolution.  Historically, only three security firms existed in Libya, two of which were associated with the prior regime.  A third company, Atlas Security, remains in business and provides unarmed security at a few sites in Tripoli.  The Ministry of Interior and its predecessor, the Supreme Security Council, has yet to clearly address the licensing of private security organizations, particularly firearms laws.

The U.S. Embassy cannot recommend specific medical facilities and assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms whose names appear on the Embassy's list.  The order in which the names appear has no significance. 

A number of companies claim to have obtained “no objection certificates” from the TNC, which they claim allows the companies to operate.


Atlas Security

Blue Mountain Group

Control Risks Group

Gallice Security

Garda World

Olive Group

There are no known private security or legal firms offering private investigative services in Libya.  The U.S. Embassy suggests that OSAC constituents contact the Regional Security Office for further information as this information may change quickly given the local legal and political situation in Libya.

Police Response

After the February 2011 uprising, 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 loosely affiliated with the interim government. In some instances, militias have made arrests on scant evidence and held detainees in substandard conditions.  The Ministry of Interior estimates that only 60% of uniformed police have returned to duty.  Historically, most police officers in Libya speak limited English, are ill equipped and poorly trained, and have long response times.

Celebratory Gunfire

Since the revolution, celebratory gunfire represents a significant safety risk to travelers.  Hundreds of injuries and a number of fatalities have resulted from rounds falling from the sky.  While the NTC has made efforts, including public education campaigns, to reduce celebratory gunfire it continues to be a significant public safety issue.  During the celebration of the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday in Tripoli from 02-04 February, hospitals reported more than 90 injuries from celebratory gunfire.

In the event of celebratory gunfire, we advise persons to stay indoors wherever possible.

Landmines, unexploded ordinance (UXO) and explosive remnants of warfare (ERW)

Although demining operations and efforts to remove unexploded ordinance (UXO) and explosive remnants of warfare (ERW) continue throughout Libya, a significant amount of unmarked landmines, UXO, and ERW remain. The risk of encountering unexploded ordinance and indiscriminately laid landmines is high in all areas where fighting occurred. Travelers are advised to exercise caution in these areas.

Medical Emergencies

Nationwide Emergency Numbers

Supreme Security Committee         1515

Police                                                 1515

Fire                                                     1515 Tripoli (021 444 8111)

Ambulance                                         1515

Contact Information for Local Hospitals and Clinics

Public and private medical care in Libya may not meet Western standards and, in some cases, may be poor or nonexistent.  Many physicians have been trained in the U.S. or Europe but modern medical equipment and medicine are not always available.  Nursing care, diagnostic equipment, and laboratory facilities are especially lacking.  These shortages have become more acute after eight months of civil war although the medical sector is making efforts to return to pre-revolution levels.  The vast majority of Libyans seek non-routine medical care outside of Libya.  A list of healthcare providers is available at:

 Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment upon rendering services.  While some over-the-counter medications are available, travelers should bring a full supply of necessary medications with them.  The medical professionals listed in the link above can be contacted for emergency prescriptions.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at or via the CDC's internet site at   For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at

The U.S. Embassy cannot recommend specific medical facilities and assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms whose names appear on the Embassy's list.  The order in which the names appear has no significance.  The following list of local doctors and dentists in Tripoli has been made on the basis of positive experiences in the expatriate community.  It is provided for convenience only and constitutes neither an endorsement nor a recommendation by the U.S. Embassy:

Al Afia Hospital
Fax: 021-563-3055

 Libya British Diagnostic Center
Jraba Street
Ben Ashour Area
Tel: (+218) 91 320-5816
Fax: (+218) 21 361-9692

Medilink International
Tripoli Clinic
Shara Hasi Messaoud
Suq El Gbub, Ghirgharesh
Tripoli LIBYA.
Tel: +218 4830501
Fax: +218 4830491

Brothers Clinic
Nufleen Area, 1st right after Bengaber Mosque/near ICRC
Tel: 091-218-2411
Fax: (+218) 021-340-1671   

Saint James Hospital
Wesayat El Beideri
Ben Ashour Area
Tel: (+218) 21 7190843
Fax: (+218) 21 113092

Tripoli Medical Center 
Tel# 021-462-3701 to 3714
Cel# +218 (91) 2114966
Tel# +218 (21) 46307-4
Dr. Tareg (091/353-2259)
Dr. Bezante (091/491-8781)

Al Khadra Hospital
Fax: 021/4906030

Abuslim Trauma Hospital
Management Office: +218 21 4901951
Emergency + 218 21 4900606 Ext 253

 Burn Center
Tel# +218 21 360 5541/43/44
Tel# +218 21 360 4637/38

Refaq Medical Services
Seyahey- Hay Al-Wahda Al-Araia- Tripoli- Libya
Tel# + 218 21 4842989

Alsalaam Medical Center
Janzour Circular Road – Tripoli Libya
Tel# 091 320 58 16
Land line# 021 489 80 25/6
Fax# 021 489 14 90

Dr. Kamel Alhattab
+218 91 3722390

Dr. Bashir K Hush
+218 91 3719814

 Dr. Aml Hwas (Pedodontics)
+218 91 2117651

Dr. Mokhtar Nagasa (prosthodontist)
+218 91 4224279

Eye Clinic
Dr. Abdulmuhaymen Hamouda
+218 91 3154024
+218 21 3332955  

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

As in other countries, travelers to Libya should exercise common sense and good personal security practices, including being aware of one's surroundings, keeping an inconspicuous appearance, and avoiding unsolicited offers of assistance.  In general, one should approach Libyan cities with the same security posture as one would approach major U.S. cities.  Travelers should refrain from taking photographs of military and police installations and personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings, and critical infrastructure (dams, roads, airports, bridges, etc.).  Such sites often lack clear markings.  Individual Libyans may object to having their picture taken.  Travel guides, police, and other government officials can advise if a particular site may be photographed.  Photographing prohibited sites usually result in the confiscation of camera and film and could lead to being detained by police.

Libyans are generally friendly towards foreigners and are curious about Westerners following decades of isolation.  However, Libya also has a large population of migrant workers from neighboring states and sub-Saharan Africa.  Many Libyans believe that these migrants are responsible for increased crime.

Tripoli has a handful of safe, moderately-priced hotels, and a growing number or western chain hotels, although most hotels are owned at least in part by the government.  When staying in a Libyan hotel, be sure to immediately report suspicious activity to the front desk, always use the door viewer and deadbolt lock, know all fire escape routes, and refrain from bringing strangers into your room.

Further Information

U.S. Embassy Tripoli
Walee al-Ahad Street
Airport Road District
Telephone: +218 (0) 91 220 3203
(When calling from outside Libya, dial +218 and omit the "0." When calling from within Libya, dial "0" followed by the number.)

US Embassy Tripoli Webpage:

American Citizen Services: +218 (0)91-379 4560,

Regional Security Office: +218 (0)91-220-3094 (OSAC inquires),

OSAC Country Council

OSAC has an active Country Council program in Tripoli that meets regularly and discusses a range of issues that are of interest to the U.S. private sector.  The Tripoli Country Council is open to all U.S. private sector constituents.  For additional information on the Tripoli Country Council, please visit the Tripoli page via  For information on how to join or become involved in the Country Council, please contact that Regional Security Office in Tripoli or OSAC headquarters.