Wellington woman murdered on beach in Libya – “high risk” country for visitors

A Wellington woman has been named as one of two people who have been murdered in an execution-style shooting on a beach in Libya.

The NZ Herald and the Sunday Star-Times have each have named the woman as Lynn Howie.

Her Linked In page says that she had been working as a Health Protection Officer for Regional Public Health since August. She had been previously been a Drinking Water Assistance Programme Facilitator for the Ministry of Health.

The Herald reports that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says the woman’s family have been notified and have asked for privacy. The Ministry is working with British consular staff and local authorities to investigate the killings, near the city of Sabratha which is 65km west of Tripoli.

The Sunday Star Times says it understands the woman was recently divorced – it was yesterday turned away from her former home in Silverstream. It quotes a friend as saying she was visiting Libya to visit her English boyfriend , who was also murdered.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website advises:

There is extreme risk to your security in Libya, except in Tripoli and the north coast cities of Zuwara, Az Zawiya, Khums and Misrata, due to a significant threat from terrorism and kidnapping and we advise against all travel.

There is high risk to your security in Tripoli and the north coast cities of Zuwara, Az Zawiya, Khums and Misrata owing to the unsettled security situation and we advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel.

The National Transitional Council declared the liberation of Libya on 23 October 2011. Elections were held on 7 July 2012 and the Libyan National Transitional Council formally handed over power to the Prime Minister. The political situation in Libya remains fragile, however, and travellers should be alert to the possibility of politically motivated violence, particularly in the main cities of Tripoli and Benghazi.

Militia involved in the overthrow of the Muammar al-Gaddafi regime continue to operate in Libya, and there are reports of clashes between rival militia groups, and between militia groups and members of the public opposed to their presence in Libya.

Public demonstrations are a frequent occurrence in the central squares of Libya’s cities. New Zealanders in Libya are advised to maintain a high level of security awareness at all times, keep a low profile and avoid all protests and large public gatherings as they have the potential to turn violent with little warning. If you are in an area affected by demonstrations or violence, you should find a safe location, remain indoors, heed any local advice and leave the area as soon as it is safe to do so.

Celebratory gunfire occurs in Libya and a number injuries and fatalities have resulted from gunfire rounds falling from the sky. It is advisable to remain indoors in the event of any celebratory gunfire.

There is a high threat from terrorism in Libya, especially outside Tripoli and in the east of the country. Terrorist groups have conducted attacks in the past and the unsettled security situation means future attacks are possible.

Western interests have been targeted by terrorists in Libya in the past. These attacks include an attack against the French Embassy in Tripoli in April 2013 and an attack against an Italian diplomatic vehicle in Tripoli in July 2013. In September 2012 the US Consulate in Benghazi was attacked, resulting in the death of the Ambassador and a number of other fatalities.

There is a threat of kidnapping in Libya. The terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghred (AQIM), which uses northern Mali as an operating base, has a proven capability of travelling long distances to carry out attacks, including as far as Libya. Criminal groups have also carried out kidnappings for terrorist groups in exchange for financial reward.

As law and order has broken down in many parts of the country, crime levels have increased. The presence of a large number of weapons looted from government storage facilities during the revolution means there is a heightened risk of crime involving firearms, including armed robbery and car jackings. There is a limited police capacity to respond to street crime.

We advise against all road travel outside Tripoli city limits after dark. There is a high threat to personal safety from criminal and armed groups in Libya, particularly at night.

De-mining operations are ongoing in southern Libya, however significant numbers of unmarked landmines remain. It is advisable not to stray off well used roads and paths.

New Zealanders are advised to respect religious and social traditions in Libya to avoid offending local sensitivities. Modesty and discretion should be exercised in both dress and behaviour.

As there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence in Libya, the ability of the government to assist New Zealand citizens is severely limited.


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