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Libyan militia uses vacated U.S. Embassy in Libya as swim club

By Ali Younes, Anna-Maja Rappard and Mark Morgenstein, CNN
updated 5:13 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Video apparently shows Libyan militia members frolicking at U.S. Embassy pool in Tripoli
  • U.S. ambassador says the compound has not been ransacked, despite rumors
  • A Libyan official says the embassy is protected and the hijinks are unacceptable
  • U.S. diplomats evacuated the anarchic Libyan capitol last month

(CNN) -- Libyan militia members have apparently turned the abandoned U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, into a water park, judging by amateur video posted to YouTube on Sunday.

The video, which reflects the anarchy that currently reigns in Libya's capital, shows fully clothed men diving into and swimming in a pool.

Ambassador Deborah Jones, who is not currently in Libya, tweeted that the images appear to show a residential annex in the U.S. Embassy compound. But Jones said "the U.S. Embassy Tripoli chancery & compound is now being safeguarded and has not been ransacked," and "those who have actually visited the embassy know the truth."

A spokesman for the General National Congress says the militias securing the U.S. Embassy compound are still there safeguarding it.

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"The militias are under the command of the Libyan General Staff, and what happened was not an attack on the embassy grounds, nor was it an attempt to ransack its offices," Omar Hmaidan said.

"What happened (the frolicking at the pool) was an isolated behavior by some of those who were in charge of protecting the compound. We don't condone it and we don't accept it," he said.

A senior State Department official said the United States is "seeking additional details" about the incident.

"At this point, we believe the Embassy compound itself remains secure but we continue to monitor the situation on the ground, which remains very fluid," the official said.

Libya Dawn, an alliance of militias, reinstated the General National Congress this month as the country's official parliament, despite international recognition of the new parliament elected in June.

U.S diplomats evacuated Tripoli last month amidst heavy militia violence.

CNN correspondent Jomana Karadsheh, who lived in Tripoli but had to evacuate weeks ago as well, says if true, the use of the empty embassy is no surprise.

"The fighting in Tripoli that erupted between militias in July and lasted for weeks was described by Libyan officials as 'unprecedented.' Many homes in parts of Tripoli have been looted by and ransacked by different militia groups during the fighting, including as recently as last week, the home of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni." Al-Thinni is not in Tripoli currently.

The U.S. State Department had not responded to CNN requests for comment as of this article's publication.

READ: Opinion: Libyans paying price for Mideast divide

READ: Libya pulls out of hosting 2017 Africa Cup of Nations

CNN's Ali Younes, Anna-Maja Rappard and Mark Morgenstein reported on this story from Atlanta.

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