Monday, April 21, 2014

Libya: Tunisan Diplomat Kidnapped in Tripoli, Kidnappings Continue to Rise

According to Reuters, unidentified gunmen kidnapped an unidentified Tunisian diplomat in Tripoli, Tunisia's foreign minister said on Saturday (March 22), one of a series of diplomatic and business sector abductions over the last year.

Three years after Libya's revolt to topple Libyan leader Gaddafi, the North African country has been unsuccessful in imposing a safe environment, particularly for foreigners.

COMMENT: Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi said the unidentified diplomat's vehicle was found abandoned, according to radio station Shems FM.

In January 2014, five Egyptian diplomats were briefly kidnapped in Tripoli in what security officials said was retaliation for Egypt's arrest of a Libyan militia chief. They were later freed and Egypt released the militia commander.

A South Korean trade official was also kidnapped in January as he left his office in Tripoli. He was later freed days by security forces without releasing any details as to the motive for the abduction.

Foreigners have been targeted in attacks in recent months, though precise motives have not been clearly defined. 

A US teacher was shot and killed in Benghazi in December 2013 while reportedly exercising out-of-doors, an activity I have always discouraged in high-threat environments where foreigners are an endangered species.

According to http://www.stuff.co.nz, a Timaru-based international tour guide will avoid Libya following the January 2 shooting deaths of Wellington resident and mother-of-two Lynn Howie, 47, and her partner, former RAF officer Mark De Salis, 48, both of whom were found  executed on a Libyan beach near Mellitah. 
  The couple lunched together on a beach near the Sabratha, 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Libya's capital of Tripoli.
  Both De Salis and Howie were found lying face down in the sand with gunshot wounds, beside a picnic basket, water bottles and food.

The couple's valuables ­appear to have been untouched. No shell casings were found at there scene, suggesting that the couple may have been singled out for a professional hit.

De Salis worked for a company called First Engineering, a firm that provided electrical energy to the capital of Tripoli.

One theory of the motive for the murder of the couple is the fact that the two Westerners were not married, which could potentially anger extremist Islamists in Libya. This theory can only be confirmed if and when all of the assailants who executed the couple are fully interrogated. 
  According to Libyan news sources, a number of arrests have been made in the shooting, although police have not identified the names of suspects.

De Salis was apparently married to a British national based in the UK and had worked in Tripoli for six years. 

Lynn Howie was De Salis' current partner and reportedly had planned to visit him in Tripoli before traveling onward to London, where she had lived previously. 

Effective January 6, 2014, the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (http://www.http://www.mfat.govt.nz) MFAT described the security risk in Libya as EXTREME, although the warning was released AFTER Lynn Howie and Mark De Salis were executed.