30 June 2014

Tunisia: Kidnapped Tunisians Return Home From Libya

Two Tunisian embassy staffers freed by kidnappers in Libya have been welcomed home in Tunis after several months of captivity. Jordan's envoy was freed last month after a series of abductions in Tripoli.

Tunisia's Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi said on Monday no ransom had been paid for two embassy members - a diplomat and a consulate worker - but he declined to give details on how the release was arranged.

Hamdi said the abductors had been demanding the release of Libyans imprisoned in Tunisia on terrorism charges. Contacts to arrange the freeing were with Libyan authorities, not the kidnappers, he said.

The freed diplomat Al-Aroussi Kontassi and employee Mohamed ben Scheikh were welcomed home at Tunis barracks by their families and Tunisia's leadership, including President Moncef Marzouki (pictured center).

Ben Sheikh, who was seized in March said he and Kontassi were held in the same house in Libya's capital but they did not speak to each other.

Kontassi said the pair were not mistreated by their unnamed captors but the "conditions of our detention were very bad."

String of kidnappings

Three years after the ouster and killing by rebels of Libya's previous strongman Muammar Gadhafi, Libya is awash with weapons held by diverse militias and gripped by lawlessness under a weak central government.

The abductions were part of series in Tripoli in recent months. Diplomats say militias carry out abductions to press other countries to release Libyans they hold.

In May, kidnappers freed Jordan's envoy after the reported handover of a Libyan militant who had been serving a jail sentence in Jordan.

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