Kidnappers of diplomat want Tunis to free jailed Libyans
An exterior view of the Tunisian embassy is seen in Tripoli - REUTERS

TUNIS: Tunis said Friday that the kidnappers of a Tunisian diplomat in Tripoli and an embassy colleague are demanding the release of Libyans jailed in Tunisia on terrorism charges.

Al-Aroussi Kontassi, the diplomat, was abducted Thursday in the Libyan capital, a month after Tunisian embassy employee Mohamed ben Sheikh was seized in Tripoli.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi said the two men were abducted by relatives of “Libyan terrorists” serving jail sentences in Tunisia over a deadly 2011 attack that killed soldiers.

“It seems they belong to the same family as Libyan terrorists detained in Tunisia in connection with the Rouhia terrorist operation who were sentenced to long jail terms,” Hamdi told Express FM radio.

Two army officers were killed in May 2011 in a shootout with suspected Al-Qaeda militants in Rouhia, in northwestern Tunisia.

The abductors are “demanding that the Libyans be freed in return for the release of the Tunisians,” Hamdi added.

Kontassi’s abduction came just two days after armed men seized the Jordanian ambassador in Tripoli, the latest in a string of attacks targeting diplomats and Libyan politicians.

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

The North African country has been awash with weapons since the end of the uprising that killed Kadhafi and has been gripped by increasing lawlessness.

Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the uprising, have seen most of the violence that has rocked Libya over the past three years while authorities struggle to establish security.

In January, gunmen seized five Egyptian diplomats and held them for two days before releasing them. The abductors had demanded the release of a Libyan militia chief held in Egypt.

Two assailants were killed in October when protesters attacked Russia’s embassy in Tripoli, and a car bomb attack on the French embassy wounded two guards a year ago.

On September 11, 2012, an attack by militants on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Tunisia on Thursday issued a travel advisory urging its citizens to postpone any planned trip to Libya.

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