Tunisia 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 Muammar Qaddafi 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 Qaddafi and has been gripped by increasing lawlessness.