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Five Egyptian Diplomats Kidnapped In Tripoli In Retaliation

Five Egyptian diplomats kidnapped in Tripoli in retaliation for Egypt’s arrest of a Libyan militia chief pleaded on Saturday for their government to free him to secure their release.
Reuter reports Gunman snatched four diplomatic staff from their homes in the Libyan capital on Saturday, including the cultural attach?, and kidnapped another on Friday, forcing Cairo to evacuate its embassy and its Benghazi consulate.
The kidnappings of so many diplomats underlined Libya’s persistent chaos two years after Muammar Gaddafi’s fall, with heavily-armed former rebels and Islamist militants who fought in the uprising still challenging state authority.
Calling themselves Libyan revolutionaries, the kidnappers contacted Al-Arabiya television channel to demand the release in 24 hours of Libyan militia chief Shaban Hadia, and put one of the Egyptian diplomats on the line.
“The kidnappers have demands and we ask these demands are met and the defendant Abu Hadia be released,” a man called Shirbini from the Egyptian cultural center told the channel.
“We won’t free the diplomats unless the sheikh is freed within 24 hours,” one of the kidnappers said, without giving details of what would happen after that deadline.
Hadia is a commander in the Islamist-leaning Operations Room for Libya Revolutionaries, one of the many militias which fought Gaddafi in the 2011 NATO-backed uprising, but have since refused to disarm and accept Tripoli’s authority.
The Operations Room, whose former rebel fighters were nominally hired by the government to secure Tripoli, was accused of briefly abducting Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in Tripoli in October last year.
The group denied it was involved in the Egyptian diplomatic kidnappings, but on Friday had warned there would be a strong response if Hadia was not released.
“What we have been warning the Egyptian authorities about since yesterday is that this kind of response was to be expected because of the security situation in the country,” commander Adel al-Gharyani told Reuters.
Egypt’s state news agency MENA said the Egyptian ambassador and numerous diplomats and their families had arrived back in Cairo after the government evacuated the embassy in Tripoli and the consulate in Benghazi as a precaution.
Libyan officials said they were in contact with the kidnappers and an Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman confirmed Hadia was under investigation in Egypt.
“If there is no charge at the end of it then he will be released,” he told Al Arabiya. “He will be treated kindly and we expect good treatment of the Egyptians.”

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