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Libya says kidnapped Egypt diplomats freed

A soldier from the Libyan army mans a checkpoint in the capital Tripoli on January 26, 2014. Egypt's ambassador and his staff have left Libya for security reasons after the kidnapping of five of their colleagues, the foreign ministry said. The evacuation had been decided on security grounds, he said, as Libyan authorities worked to secure the release of the abducted diplomats. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD TURKIA

TRIPOLI: Five Egyptian diplomats kidnapped in Tripoli in retaliation for Egypt’s arrest of a Libyan militia commander have been freed, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Razak al-Grady said Sunday night. Gunman snatched four diplomatic staff from their homes in the Libyan capital Saturday, including the cultural attache, and kidnapped another Friday, forcing Cairo to evacuate its embassy and its Benghazi consulate.

“All them have been freed,” Grady told Reuters, without detailing how they were released.

He said three were already back home, and another three were on they way back to Tripoli. Five were diplomats and another man taken with them was an embassy employee.

Libya’s government said earlier the diplomats had been snatched in reaction to the arrest of Shaban Hadia, commander of the Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, a powerful militia in Libya.

Kidnappers Saturday called Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV, demanding Hadia’s release in 24 hours, and put one of the Egyptian diplomats on the line to plead for the demands.

The abduction of five diplomats in Tripoli illustrated the fragility of government control over former rebels and militias who two years ago helped topple Moammar Gadhafi in a NATO-backed revolution.

The Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries is nominally under the control of chief of staff to work with the armed forces, but the militia has before used military muscle to make political demands on the state.

Operations Room commanders denied any involvement in the diplomat abductions. But Friday, they had warned of a response if Hadia were not released.

The group said he was arrested visiting Egypt with family for medical treatment.

The group was accused of briefly abducting Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in Tripoli in October last year. It initially claimed it had arrested the premier, but later denied that after he was released hours later.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 27, 2014, on page 9.

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Summary

Five Egyptian diplomats kidnapped in Tripoli in retaliation for Egypt's arrest of a Libyan militia commander have been freed, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Razak al-Grady said Sunday night.

Libya's government said earlier the diplomats had been snatched in reaction to the arrest of Shaban Hadia, commander of the Operations Room of Libya's Revolutionaries, a powerful militia in Libya.

The group was accused of briefly abducting Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in Tripoli in October last year.


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