Tunisian workers held hostage near Tripoli

The Tunisian Foreign Ministry said they were working with the relevant Libyan authorities to "put an end to this crisis without delay."

TUNIS - Fourteen Tunisians working at an oil refinery in western Libya were kidnapped by an unnamed militia near Tripoli, the Tunisian Foreign Ministry has confirmed.   

The Tunisians are being held hostage by members of a Libyan tribe seeking the release of a relative who has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Tunisia for drug trafficking, Mustafa Abdel Kebir, president of the Tunisian Observatory for Human Rights, told Tunisian media. 

The workers were abducted in the small town of Zawiya, west of the capital Tripoli, he added. He did not say when the kidnapping took place.

Tunisia’s Foreign Ministry said they were “following the predicament of the Tunisian citizens,” and that Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui had “contacted his Libyan counterpart to stress the need to work to ensure the safety of detainees, accelerate their release and guarantee their safe return.” 

He added that the Tunisian Consulate General in Tripoli was also working with the relevant Libyan authorities to "put an end to this crisis without delay,” the Tunisian Press Agency reported. 

The abduction is not the first targeting Tunisian workers in neighbouring Libya. 

In June 2015, ten Tunisian diplomats were kidnapped by gunmen in their consulate in Tripoli, an attack thought to be carried out by the powerful “Libya Dawn” militia. 

The group was suspected of attempting to gain leverage over Tunisian authorities, who a month earlier arrested one of their leaders, Walid Glib, on terror charges.

The Tunisian diplomats were eventually released, while Tunisia shut down its consulate in the city.  

Tunisia, which shares important economic and political ties with Libya, is deeply involved in efforts to restore peace and security to its embattled neighbour. It is working intensively to solve the recent hostage-taking incident, which threatens to damage relations between the two countries and disrupt the crucial movement of Libyans and Tunisians across the border. 

In March, Tunisia will host the annual Arab League summit, in which talks on the conflict in Libya are expected to be high on the agenda.