Details of Secret Evacuation of US Embassy in Libya

As fighting between rival militias grows closer, about 150 Americans were evacuated to Tunisia.
4:03 | 07/27/14

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Transcript for Details of Secret Evacuation of US Embassy in Libya
And we do begin with that dramatic operation in Libya. The swift action to evacuate all Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. At dawn, all American personnel, more than 150 of them, were whisked away, including dozens of Marines who were working security. Driven in a convoy some 250 miles to Tunisia, under heavy military guard from the ground and the air and at sea. The move comes amid fierce fighting growing closer to the embassy, and there was a tweet from the American ambassador in Tripoli within the last 24 hours, warning of the nearing violence. The Tripoli airport, one of the biggest battlegrounds, shut down now for more than a week. Smoke rising from the planes and equipment destroyed. We have team coverage of the secret mission to get the Americans out, beginning with ABC's Muhammad Lila in London. Reporter: It began just after sunrise. The U.S. Military moving into position to cover the evacuation, while most of the city was sleeping. Over 150 Americans among them at least 70 embassy staff including ambassador Deborah Jones, plus large security detail, traveling in a convoy of armored SUVs. Up above, a surveillance drone keeping watch, with two f-16 fighter jets patrolling nearby, just far enough to not attract too much attention. As the convoy made its getaway, the only way out, driving through streets that have become battlegrounds with rival militias fighting for control. The route took the convoy west to the safety of neighboring Tunisia. Monitored by an American warship stationed in the mediterranean. These photos released by the Pentagon today, showing U.S. Marines on board osprey aircraft, flying nearby, ready to land as a quick reaction force if the convey came under attack. Today, secretary of state John Kerry admitting the violence was out of control. Because of the free-wheeling militia violence that is taking place in Tripoli, and particularly, in our case, around a lot of the violence is around our embassy, but not on the embassy, but nevertheless, it presents a very real risk to our personnel. Reporter: That risk so real, the state department issuing a travel warning, telling Al Americans to use, quote, extreme caution and depart immediately, adding that rebels have anti-aircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation. With each passing day, the danger getting closer and closer to the embassy, leading ambassador Jones to recently tweet, "Our neighborhood, a bit too close to the action." Then, this. Apparently an urgent plea. "Diplomatic missions to be avoided, please." It all comes less than two years after the attack on the U.S. Mission in benghazi, when islamic militants stormed the compound, killing ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. Sparking furious criticism that not enough was done to protect them. The white house today clearly not taking any chances. Embassy staff even destroying classified documents before they were evacuated. The entire operation took five hours and everyone made it out safely. David? Muhammad Lila in London tonight, thank you. And as you can imagine, the white house watching this very closely. ABC's chief white house correspondent Jonathan Karl in Washington tonight. And Jon, I wanted to take everyone home back to that image, those Marines at the ready, word of F-16s in the air, but out of sight, as they evacuated the embassy in Tripoli. Jon, is this a sign of the post-benghazi era, the swift action, given the increasing danger? Reporter: It sure is, David. The watch phrase is, no more benghazis. They don't want another situation like that. And when you think about it, this is one of the most heavily fortified U.S. Embassies in the world, protected by a large contingent of Marines. So, it tells you something about the security situation there, and the level of chaos that they ordered this full-blown evacuation. And you saw that image, of those ospreys waiting in Italy to take part in this evacuation. The extraordinary security measures that were taken to ensure that convoy was protected, as it left Libya. Now, David, the official line is that the embassy will eventually reopen, that this is a temporary measure. But I talked to a lot of people about this, there is no expectation that that U.S. Embassy in Tripoli will open again any time soon.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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