Kidnapped Tunisian consular staff in Libya freed

Tunis/Tripoli, June 19 (IANS) All Tunisian consulate staff kidnapped in Libya a week ago have been freed and are on their way back home, the Tunisian foreign ministry said on Friday.

The 10 officers at the Tunisian consulate in the Libyan capital of Tripoli were taken hostage by a Libyan militia group last Saturday.

Three of them were freed earlier this week and the rest were released on Thursday, the Tunisian news agency TAP reported.

The motive behind the kidnappings was not clarified by officials from the two countries.

However, Libyan media said the consulate staff were taken by Tripoli’s Artillery and Missiles Brigade as Tunisian authorities refused to free one of its commanders arrested in Tunisia in May, according to Xinhua news agency.

Libya is faced with a security vacuum since the fall of former ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. Since then, the country has been plagued with illegal arrests and detentions of foreign nationals and diplomats by armed factions to pressurise the government into complying with their demands.

The capital city of Tripoli fell to Libya Dawn last August. The Islamist militia established its own government to confront the internationally recognized 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.

Tunis has warned its nationals living and working in Libya to leave the country in case of potential threats to their security.

However, Tunisia is one of the few nations which still has 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 increasing terrorism could spill over.

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