Skip to main content

Kidnapped Tunisians freed in Libya

A Tunisian diplomat and embassy staffer are expected to go home soon after being freed by their abductors in Libya on Sunday
A Tunisian diplomat returns to his family following his abduction in Libya months ago (AFP)
A Tunisian diplomat and a fellow embassy staffer abducted in Libya earlier this year were freed by their abductors on Sunday after months in captivity, an embassy source said.

An unidentified source told AFP that the pair were in good health. 

Diplomats in Tripoli say militias which fought to topple the Muammar Gaddafi regime in the 2011 uprising often carry out kidnappings to blackmail other countries into releasing Libyans they hold.

The Tunisian embassy staff abductions came during a string of attacks targeting diplomats in the capital earlier this year.

Embassy employee Mohamed ben Sheikh was kidnapped in Tripoli on 21 March while diplomat Al-Aroussi Kontassi was seized 17 April.

At the time, Tunis said a militant group was behind the abductions and was demanding the release of Libyans jailed in Tunisia for their role in a deadly "terrorist operation" that took place three years ago.

On Sunday, the Tunisian embassy source said the pair were freed "thanks to negotiations" but that his government did give in to the demands of the kidnappers.

Jordan's ambassador to Libya has also been kidnapped and Portugal's embassy was attacked by gunmen.

Even ahead of the nationwide offensive that rogue ex-general Khalifa Haftar launched in May which has increased instability in the country, lawlessness in Libya since the 2011 uprising had given rise to favourable conditions for potential kidnapers. As militias successfully used foreign diplomats to achieve the release of prisoners, analysts said it was likely that kidnappings would continue.

“Unless the Libyan government and international community take responsibility for the dire state of instability, it is likely this cycle of kidnappings will continue for months, or even years, to come,” Mohamed Eljarh, Libyan analyst for Foreign Policy, told Middle East Eye.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.