By Houda Mzioudet.
Tunis, 19 June 2015:
As ten kidnapped Tunisian diplomats flew home from Libya today, Tunisia said it was once . . .[restrict]more closing its consulate in Tripoli, which controversially it had reopened this March, while also warning Tunisians to get out of Libya..
Tunisian foreign minister Taieb Baccouche, who had welcomed consular staff at Laouina military airport in Tunis, said that the consulate was being shut down because of a lack of security. The ten diplomats were seized when gunmen broke into the building on 12 June. They flew home today with 13 colleagues from the consulate.
Baccouche also warned all Tunisians to leave Libya. He also denied that the release of the country’s diplomats had anything whatsoever to do with the release of a Libyan charged in Tunisia with terrorist offences and smuggling LD2 million.
The kidnappers were reported to belong to the Medfaiyah Wal-Sewarigh (“Artillery and Missiles”) Brigade, based in Tajoura which is part of Libya Dawn. They took the Tunisians hostage after a court in Tunis refused to release on of their commanders, Walid Al-Ghleib who had been charged with several terrorist offences including supplying Tunisian terrorists.
Ghleib has since been freed and returned to Tripoli today.
When on 3 March, Tunisia reopened its red stucco consulate in the capital’s Nufleen district, it insisted that the move did not constitute a recognition of the Libya Dawn government of Khalifa Ghwell. It protested that it needed to reactivate its consular services to look after the thousands of Tunisians still in areas controlled by the Tripoli antigovernment.
However both Libya Dawn and the government in Beida took the consular return as de facto diplomatic recognition. The former, which has been pushing for EU recognition in exchange for acting against people-smugglers, sought to use the Tunisians return as a lever to persuade other countries to return their missions.
The attack on the consulate caused one of Ghwell’s ministers to voice his despair, saying it was a stupid thing to do at the very time that Libya Dawn was trying to convince the diplomatic community that it was safe for it to come back to Tripoli.
Tunisian radio station Jawhara FM has reported that seven Tunisian workers who had also been kidnapped, were released on Wednesday.