Two Tunisian ex-hostages return home from Libya

June 30, 2014 - 7:51:10 am

TRIPOLI: A Tunisian diplomat and a fellow embassy staffer who were abducted in Libya returned to Tunisia on a military plane early Monday after being freed by their unknown captors.

Embassy employee Mohamed ben Sheikh kidnapped in Tripoli on March 21 and diplomat Al-Aroussi Kontassi, who was seized April 17, reunited with their families at a military barracks in a suburb of Tunis early Monday.

Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki, Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa and the head of the constituent assembly Mustapha ben Jaafar were also present at their arrival home.

"We were well treated (by the kidnappers). We did not know them," Ben Sheikh told journalists, adding that he was held in the same house as Kontassi but they did not speak to each other.

Kontassi also said they had not been mistreated but added "the conditions of our detention were very bad".

The pair have been taken to the military hospital in Tunis to be examined by doctors.

They were freed on Sunday through "the efforts of the Tunisian authorities in collaboration with the Libyan authorities whom we thank for their cooperation", Jomaa had said at a press conference earlier confirming that they had been freed.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi also spoke to the press saying no ransom had been paid, but declined to give details on the circumstances of their release.

He said that Tunisia's contact was with the Libyan authorities and not with the kidnappers whose identity he did not know, though he added their motivation was "political". 

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

Hamdi said the abductors had demanded the release of Libyans imprisoned in Tunisia on terrorism charges, but that they would not be freed.

The abductions of the Tunisians took place during a string of attacks targeting diplomats in the Libyan capital.

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

Libya has been awash with weapons since the end of the uprising that killed Kadhafi and has been gripped by increasing lawlessness. (AFP)

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