10 Tunisian consulate staff taken hostage in Libya

Tunis, (IANS) Tunisia’s foreign ministry said on Friday that 10 of its officers at its consulate in Tripoli were taken hostage by a Libyan armed militia group.

The kidnappers attacked the headquarters of the Tunisian general consulate in Tripoli and held 10 employees as hostages, Xinhua news agency reported citing a ministry source.

In an official statement issued on Friday, the Tunisian foreign ministry said the incident was “a cowardly violation of Tunisian sovereignty, international conventions, and diplomatic traditions which guarantee the security of diplomats and consulate employees”.

The Tunisian authorities said they were now coordinating with Libyan officials and decision-makers to monitor the situation closely in a bid to secure the safe return of the hostages.

Tunis also warned its nationals living and working in conflict-ridden Libya, urging them to leave the country in case of potential threats to their security.

The Libyan authorities have yet to comment on the hostage crisis, and no group has come forward to claim the attack.

Libya, an oil-rich north African country, has been suffering a security vacuum since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. Since then, the country has been plagued by rival armed groups continuously fighting for dominance.

The capital city of Tripoli fell to Libya Dawn last August. The Islamist militia established its own government to confront the internationally recognised one, currently in exile in the eastern town of Tobruk. The country is now deadlocked in a dogfight between the pro-secular army and Islamist militants.

Taking the advantages of Libya’s persistent unrest, the Islamic State militant group has in recent months expanded into the country, and has already completely seized the northern coastal city of Sirte.

Tunisia is one of the few nations which still have a diplomatic mission in Tripoli. Yet relations between the two neighbours have grown rather tense as the Tunisian authorities worry that the continued chaos and flaring terrorism could spill over.

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