21 April 2014

Libya Jihadists Hold Tunisian Diplomat

Photo: Fred Abrahams/Human Rights Watch
Libya has witnessed frequent kidnappings (file photo).

Tripoli — An unknown jihadist group in Libya released a video on Monday showing a Tunisian embassy worker pleading for his life.

Mohamed Benchikh is shown crying during the five-minute video, as he calls on Tunisia's president to help rescue him from his plight.

He is being held by a group calling themselves Shabab Al-Tawhid.

"Mr President, I want to return to Tunisia. They can kill me at any time," the hostage weeps.

The video was posted on social networking sites.

The group has demanded the release of Libyans sentenced for their role in a 2011 terrorist operation, Tunisian authorities said.

Benchikh is one of two officials kidnapped from the Tunisian embassy. The other is diplomat Al-Aroussi Kontassi, who disappeared Thursday near Qadisiyah square.

Jordan's ambassador to Libya, Fawaz Al-Aytan, was also abducted. The kidnappers of Al-Aytan have demanded the release of Mohamed Dersi, a Libyan who received a life sentence in 2007 for planning to bomb a Jordanian airport.

"Kidnappings and killings will isolate Libyans in their country. We heard yesterday how Tunisia is warning its citizens against traveling to Libya," 34-year-old Tripoli engineer Abubakr Zayed told Magharebia.

"I hope Tunisia does not listen to the kidnappers' demands and helps Libya eliminate these terrorist gangs and achieve justice," 37-year-old merchant Ismail Mohamed said.

Journalist Meftah Belaid said, "Serious indicators began to surface. The abduction of the Jordanian ambassador, the Tunisian diplomat, and god knows who is next."

"There are no signs of any arrests. I feel that the government fears them, which is also a dangerous indicator and the fingerprints are clearly those of Islamist militants as they demand the release of their colleagues," he added.

Tripoli University student Alaa Fathi said: "We want security and stability to prevail. Abduction of both foreigners and Libyans is a crime no matter the motives. We must strike with an iron fist those who commit these acts."

"I wonder where Libya's rebel room is. Isn't it supposed to protect security?" she asked.

"They are playing with the reputation of Libya. Killings and kidnappings occupy now the headlines of world media. This will isolate Libya from the world unless the international community intervenes to support Libyans," civil servant Leila Busifi said.

High school teacher Ali bin Saleh, 41, noted, "The situation requires the building of a strong intelligence and enacting plans to boost protection for foreign diplomatic staff, citizens and the country, otherwise we are heading into the abyss."

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