Magharebia (Washington DC)

Libyan Kidnappers Seek Prisoner Exchange

Benghazi — The two Tunisian diplomats and Jordanian ambassador kidnapped in Tripoli are in good health, Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani said Monday (April 28th), adding that talks with the abductors were under way.

"We do not want to use force against the kidnappers, we want to reach peaceful solutions," Libya Herald quoted the outgoing premier as saying. According to LANA, al-Thani spoke after seeing video footage of the three men.

The abductors of Ambassador Fawaz 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. Those holding the Tunisian diplomats have also sought to free jailed jihadists, specifically two Libyans serving long prison sentences for terrorism.

The kidnappings came just days before al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a global call to abduct Westerners and exchange them for imprisoned extremists. The terror leader made the statement in the second part of an As-Sahab interview, AFP reported on April 25th.

Libyans had their own views on al-Zawahiri's statement and the kidnapping of diplomats in their country.

"May God damn him! As if we Libyans needed this person!" remarked Najat al-Sharif, a 24-year-old university student from Ajdabiya. "Don't we have enough extremists who are already wreaking havoc in the country? Now we have criminals who are starting massive destruction in our country."

In his turn, Mohamed al-Hajaoui, 47, a preparatory school Arabic teacher, said, "Al-Zawahiri is calling on those whom he described as jihadists to kidnap foreigners, especially Americans, in Libya to exchange them for jailed jihadists. The disaster is that there are some officials in the Libyan government who are prepared to sit down and talk with those extremists."

"With this call, al-Zawahiri is impliedly claiming responsibility for the recent kidnappings of diplomats in Libya," said Mahmoud Ali Saad, a 39-year-old engineer with the Man-Made River Company in Benghazi.

"Libya has actually become a hotbed for terrorism," journalist Mona al-Fallah, 35, told Magharebia.

Idris Arish, 37, a chemical engineer at the Libyan-Norwegian Company for Fertilisers, criticised the lack of security.

"Negligence in security protection for embassies and diplomats in Libya was the factor that gave al-Zawahiri or other jihadists the idea of kidnapping diplomats to exchange them for prisoners," he said.

Abdel Basset Saleh, a 43-year-old education ministry employee, said, "What al-Zawahiri said is dangerous and clearly shows that he's involved in what's happening to foreigners in Libya. I see this as an admission by the leadership of that organisation."

"Now the question that poses itself is: Where's our weak government and the General National Congress (GNC), which has seized power, from such kidnappings and the entry of extremists and terrorists into the country?" Saleh wondered.

Rabia al-Agouri, 34 and a journalist for Libyan Woman magazine, said: "Al-Zawahiri's statement is clear evidence that Libya has become a terrorist country supporting terrorism in the absence of law and security."

"I think what al-Zawahiri is calling for has nothing to do at all with jihad; it's only to wreak havoc in the country," commented Saleha al-Mesmari, a 35-year-old masters student majoring in media. "If this method had been useful, they would have benefited from it in Afghanistan."

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