Magharebia (Washington DC)

24 March 2014

Libya: Tripoli Abduction Sparks Outrage Among Tunisians

Photo: Hamza Turkia/Xinhua
Foreign officials are often the target of kidnappings by gunmen in Libya (file photo).

Tunis — A Tunisian diplomat was abducted by unknown assailants Saturday (March 22nd) in Tripoli.

The Tunisian foreign ministry called on Libyan authorities to do everything possible to ensure the release of the kidnapped man and protect staff members of Tunisian diplomatic and consular missions in Libya.

Mosaique FM identified the abducted employee as Mohamed Bechikh, the ambassador's secretary.

The victim's father, Hammadi Bechikh, said he had been assured by the Tunisian ambassador in Tripoli that efforts were ongoing to locate his son and identify the kidnappers.

Another foreigner was kidnapped Saturday near Tobruk. His car was found abandoned with the keys and his belongings in it, Libya Herald reported. The man was identified as Enrico Ravanelli, an employee for an Italian construction company.

A number of foreign diplomats were targeted as well Libyans by various militias that still hinder the political process and security situation in the country. Just last February, the Tunisian consulate in Benghazi was hit by an RPG.

This latest incident sparked Tunisian condemnations and triggered concerns about the ability of the neighbouring country to protect foreigners living on its territory.

Azzedine Ben Saàd, a 43-year-old truck owner hailing from southern Tunisia, was surprised that some Libyan parties deliberately targeted Tunisians despite the good relations between the two countries.

"The political conflict is supposed to be internal and concerning Libya alone. I do not know why they are involving us," he said. "We did our best with our Libyan brothers during the Libyan revolution and now they are paying us back by blowing up the Tunisian embassy and kidnapping our diplomats."

"In any case, I hope that Libyans find balance and stability, and treat neighbours and brothers as neighbours not as enemies," Ben Saad added.

Meriem Mehdaoui, a 26-year-old civil society activist, stressed that the insecurity experienced by Libya and the continued presence of armed groups made it easy to target foreign diplomats.

"The first priority of Libyan authorities should be to ensure the security and safety of foreign nationals living on its territory, in particular representatives of states and to take care of the interests of foreign countries. Otherwise we cannot talk about the existence of the state," she said.

Her friend Fathi Hachani also urged action by Libya. "It is unfortunate that the authorities have done nothing to address the violations committed by armed groups against foreigners. This is what encouraged them to continue targeting foreigners," he said.

"We wish our sister Libya sees an end to these mishaps and to return to stability, security, and peace. We call on them to be tolerant for revenge only begets revenge, and blood only brings blood," he concluded.

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