Thousands of camels walked out of Tripoli to escape fighting
Security forces temporarily closed the road to allow the camels safe passage
About 3,000 camels were walked out of Libyan capital Tripoli in an overnight evacuation after the port where the animals arrived came under artillery fire.
The camels left the port shortly after midnight last Wednesday and were herded about along a highway leading west to the city of Zawiya, about 50 kilometres away, where they arrived on Thursday morning, according to a local merchant.
But he said a local armed group stole 125 of the camels as they passed through the Tripoli suburb of Janzour.
A Reuters reporter saw about 20 camel herders whipping the animals into line as they left central Tripoli, with some camels trying to search for food along the side of the road. Security forces temporarily closed the road to let them pass.
The merchant said another businessman from Zawiya bought the camels after learning they were being sold off cheaply in Australia, where thousands were culled after searching for scarce water in residential areas, according to Australian media reports.
However, Australia's Department of Agriculture said the country had not exported camels since 2007.
Sudan often imports camels to Libya along with goats and camel meat is widely eaten in the country.
Tripoli's port, which is close to the city centre, was shelled last Tuesday by forces loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who has been waging an offensive to take Tripoli for more than 10 months.
He has been battling forces aligned with the Government of National Accord.
The Libyan capital has been the scene of several rounds of fighting since former ruler Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown in a Nato-backed uprising in 2011.
The conflict has caused a sharp decline in living standards in the country, causing power cuts and fuel shortages.
The camels would normally have been driven to Zawiya in trucks but none were available, so the owner made them walk, fearing the port would come under renewed fire.
As the camels were herded along the road, some onlookers made fun of the government, saying it was bringing in camels as a substitute form of transport because of the lack of petrol.
Updated: February 24, 2020 11:22 AM