By Houda Mzioudet.
Tripoli, 25 June 2014:
Two staff members of the Tunisian embassy who were kidnapped in two separate incidents in . . .[restrict]and around Tripoli in spring, Mohamed Ben Cheikh and Aroussi Gontassi, have been freed, a Tunisian Foreign Ministry official in Tunis has told the Libya Herald. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the two had been released over a week ago. He gave no further details on the day or the circumstances of their release.
The Tunisian Embassy in Tripoli would not comment.
On 21 March 2014, Mohamed Ben Cheikh, secretary to the Tunisian ambassador was abducted in Ain Zara, east of Tripoli. Aroussi Gontassi, a second Tunisian diplomat was abducted on 17 April in Tripoli.
This was the first time ever that a Tunisian diplomat had been kidnapped anywhere. The two are believed to have been taken by the same group.
A YouTube video, dated 19 April 2014, of a distressed Ben Cheikh pleading to Tunisian authorities to negotiate with the kidnappers was released by the Tunisian militant Islamic group “Shabab Al-Tawhid”. The group’s demands have never been made public but it has been suggested that it wanted and Libyan colleagues wanted the release of two Libyans from Derna arrested by the Tunisian authorities in 2011.
Ansar Al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST) rebranded itself in early 2014 as Shabab Al-Tawhid (ST) in response to Tunisian counter terrorism operations to secure established networks and maintain its presence in Tunisia. [/restrict]