Islamist extremists in the area are often blamed for targeting security officials who once worked under Gadhafi, taking revenge for those who tortured or imprisoned them in the past. Many residents also accuse Gadhafi loyalists of trying to undermine Libya's new leaders by sowing violence.
Fawzi Wanis, head of the Supreme Security Committee in Benghazi, said he did not know of an imminent threat, but "in general it is possible that something happens" in connection to Mali.
Ibrahim Sahd, a Benghazi-based lawmaker and politician, said the new government is putting together a plan to beef up security in the city and this "might have caused the Westerners to worry about a backlash."
Noman Benotman, a former Libyan jihadist with links to al-Qaida who is now an analyst at London's Quilliam Foundation, said other groups inspired by the terror network have been gaining a following in Libya since Gadhafi's fall. There have been nearly a dozen attacks against Western targets in Libya recently, he said.
"It's the same al-Qaida ideology that is driving these militants," Benotman said.
Oil companies working in other parts of Libya said they were aware of the European warnings to foreign citizens in Benghazi but said there were no immediate plans for evacuations.
Associated Press writers Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, Juergen Baetz in Berlin, Maggie Michael in Cairo, Gregory Katz in London, Rob Gillies in Toronto, Nicole Winfield in Rome, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
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