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Hitch in evacuating Kenyans from Libya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 – Kenyans living in Libya are still stranded in the crisis-torn country after the Kenya Airways chartered rescue plane was delayed in neighbouring Egypt due to a logistical hitch.

The aircraft that was dispatched to the North African country on Thursday night was unable to obtain a landing permit on time, and was forced to take an overnight stay in Cairo, Egypt.

The national carrier does not operate scheduled flights to Libya.

KQ Corporate Communications Manager Chris Karanja said there was also a curfew in Tripoli that affected passengers trying to reach the airport, further complicating the evacuation.

"By the time, we received our landing permit, the curfew in Libya was already in place therefore we could not land and passengers could also not travel to the airport," Mr Karanja said.

According to Mr Karanja, the Kenya Airways flight KQ1322 with nine crew members on board is expected to depart from Tripoli on Saturday afternoon, arriving in Nairobi at about 8pm.

Reports say there are 94 Kenyans living in Libya.  Eighty seven are working there while seven are embassy officials. They live in major cities of Tripoli, Benghazi, Sabha, Ghat and Uvari in southern Libya.

Most of them work for construction companies, as domestic workers, with airlines and as teachers.

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached the national carrier following weeks of unrest in Libya with protesters vowing to oust the leader Muammar Gaddafi from the helm, which he has held for over 40 years.

Already scores of people are reported to have been killed in the North African country as Gaddafi tries to beat down the uprising.

Several other countries announced major rescue efforts in an international scramble that snarled operations at Tripoli airport, forcing several Libyan-bound flights to be re-routed to Malta.

Anarchy descended on Tripoli airport as thousands of foreigners packed into the terminal to try to escape the widening crisis, with those who managed to leave describing how food and water were running low.

Nearly 20,000 people have also fled Libya by road to Tunisia over the past four days amid the bloodshed sparked by the Libyan leader\’s attempts to cling to power.

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