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Stranded Kenyans back from Libya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 28 – A plane carrying Kenyans who had been stranded in crisis-hit Libya landed at Nairobi\’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday morning after a 72-hour delay caused by a logistical hitch.

KQ flight 1322 which arrived shortly after 8am, was also carrying at least 60 nationals from other African countries.

Kenya\’s ambassador to Libya Anthony Muchiri said they evacuated 90 Kenyans, including all embassy staff.

"We have evacuated all the members of staff of the embassy. We have evacuated all Kenyans who voluntarily wanted to get out of Libya. The government of Libya was unable to assure us the safety and security of any foreign nationals living there and that is why we had to evacuate," Mr Mwaniki stated.

"We do not know what will happen next and the security and safety of all nationals was not guaranteed by the government of Libya. There are some Kenyans who are still in Libya in the south and there are some others who are still in Benghazi which has already fallen to the protests," he said.

The plane left Kenya on Thursday and was initially expected back in Nairobi on Friday evening. However the flight encountered hitches as it did not get landing rights on time and had to be rerouted to Egypt.

Kenyans returning to the country from Libya described the situation there as chaotic and expressed immense relief at being safely back home.

They related accounts of gunshots everyday and uncertainty as to whether their lives were in danger or not.

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They said people had to go without food and water for three or four days as the situation there was volatile.

"Our laptops and phones have been taken but we still thank God for being safely back in our country," stated a technician who was among the travellers who arrived.

"They burnt buildings in some areas, stole cars and engaged in other kinds of activities but the good thing is that no one was hurt," he said. "They took our telephones since they did not want us filming what was going on there," said one of the evacuees who didn\’t want to be named.

Some had even despaired of ever coming back home.

"The situation there is not what one would expect. The soldiers of Gaddafi were very rough and they went about their business in a very violent manner," stated Anthony Mwaniki, who was a construction site worker in Libya.

Fears of a full-scale civil war as Muammar Gaddafi loses his grip on power have prompted many countries to rush to get their citizens out.

Kenya Airways Human Resource Director Paul Kasimu says the company experienced few challenges in its evacuation of Kenyan nationals living in Libya.

Speaking to journalists at the JKIA, Mr Kasimu said the Libyan authorities cooperated fully with them despite the airline not having a route in the North African state.

"The only challenge we had was the handling of the aircraft in Tripoli. We do not operate in Tripoli so we had to look for a loading company to load baggage and clear the passengers," he stated.

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In addition to bringing in Kenyans living there, they also jetted in individuals from six other African countries.

"The other nationals who travelled with us were from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Southern Sudan, Lesotho and Zimbabwe," he said.

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