By Sami Zaptia.
London, 18 February 2019:
The 14 Tunisian nationals kidnapped last week were successfully freed yesterday, Libya’s Tripoli Ministry of Interior (MoI) confirmed in a statement late last night.
The Tunisians were reported to be in good health. The kidnappers were not arrested. The Tunisians were kidnapped on their way to work at the Zawia Oil Refinery last week by an “unknown armed group”.
The MoI did not make public the identity of the armed group, but Zawia and security sources told this paper that they are almost certain they know who they are.
This is based on the fact that the kidnappers wanted to arrange a swap deal for a Libyan or Libyans arrested by Tunisian authorities.
There is much speculation in Libyan social and traditional media about who that could be, and Libyan security forces have been able to narrow down who the kidnappers are by a process of elimination.
It will be recalled that the Minister of Interior-designate, Fathi Bashagha , had instructed the formation of a crisis committee comprising all the Zawia security forces to follow up on the incident – while he was on an official visit to Washington DC.
These efforts led directly to the release of the kidnapees, the MoI says.
The Ministry of the Interior asserted that it will not tolerate and will not negotiate with criminals. It vowed to arrest, prosecute and bring the kidnappers to trial. It warned that it will strike at the hands of all those who undermine the security and stability of the country, or subject foreign residents and guests to harm.
The Ministry stressed its keenness on ensuring the safety of all foreigners in Libya and said it will not allow the extortion of their countries for personal purposes.
The freeing of the Tunisians is good news for Libya. It’s a feather in the cap of Fathi Bashagha, his MoI and Libya’s security forces as a whole.
While one swallow does not make a summer, it sends the signal of the beginnings of the formation of regular security apparatus and hence a functioning state. It will send signals of comfort to both Libyans and foreigners.