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Armed Libyans kidnap 100 Tunisian workers: rights group

A Libyan fighter waves his rifle following the downfall of the Kadhafi regime in 2011 (© 2009 AFP)

Around 100 Tunisian workers have been kidnapped by armed men in western Libya, a rights group said Tuesday, but Libyan officials denied the claim, calling the incident a trivial dispute.

The Tunisian League for Human Rights said roughly 100 people working near the western town of Zaouia were seized by armed men who were demanding the release of four Libyans held in Tunisia.

The workers were taken hostage late Monday, Lassad Jamoussi, a league official, told AFP.

But Libya’s interior ministry said that account was baseless.

“We deny this information. There was no kidnapping of any Tunisians,” interior ministry spokesman Abdelmonem Ayad said without elaborating.

The vice-chairman of Libya’s high security committee, which falls under the ministry of interior, also dismissed the reports, explaining that some Tunisians saw their journey interrupted by a sit-in.

A group of revolutionaries — former rebels — angered by the detention of three Libyans in Tunis had “held up a group of Tunisians in a bid to have them join their cause,” Tarek Zambo told AFP.

“This does not constitute a kidnapping,” he said.

“Furthermore the sit-in has been broken up and the Tunisians are free to go as they please. Some completed their journey to Libya, and others to Tunisia.”

Zambo accused former members of slain leader Moamer Kadhafi’s regime of provoking the unrest in the hope of “damaging relations” between the two countries, after finding refuge in southern Tunisia, near Libya.

The alleged abductions coincided with the kidnapping of another 80 Tunisians along the Tunisia-Libya border, according to the Tunisian foreign ministry’s consular affairs chief, Samir Jemai.

Five Tunisian men were kidnapped in the same area on April 7 and released two days later.

The border zone is plagued by violence and black-market trade and has seen a surge of arms trafficking since the Libyan uprising that overthrew Kadhafi in August last year.

Signature : TUNIS (AFP)

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