Kidnapped Tunisian diplomats go home


Tunis - Two Tunisian diplomats held for months by gunmen in Libya flew home Monday to an airport welcome by the president and other top officials.

The men were kidnapped in March and April by an extremist armed group demanding the release of Libyans imprisoned in Tunisia. It is not clear what deal led to their release.

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Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki (C) flanked by released diplomats Mohamed Ben Cheikh (2nd R) and Al-Aroussi Kontassi (3rd L), speaks to the press at the Aouina military airport in Tunis. The Tunisian diplomats kidnapped earlier this year by unknown gunmen in Libya arrived at dawn on Monday at a Tunis airport after being freed on Sunday. REUTERS/Anis MiliTunisian diplomat Al-Aroussi Kontassi (C) hugs a family member upon his arrival at a military airport at Aouina in Tunis.  REUTERS/Anis MiliTunisian diplomat Mohamed Ben Cheikh (centre) hugs a family member upon his arrival at a military airport at Aouina in Tunis. Picture: Anis Mili

President Moncef Marzouki and Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa greeted embassy employees Mohammed Ben Cheikh and Laroussi Kontassi. The two men said their detention was difficult but they were well treated. They said they did not know who their captors were.

A group calling itself Shebab al-Tawhid published an online video in April demanding the release of some members accused of terrorist crimes in Tunisia. In it, Ben Cheikh pleaded with Tunisian authorities to open negotiations.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi said there were no negotiations with the kidnappers but did not rule out that some Libyan prisoners would be sent back to Libya under previous conventions.

Libya has been plagued by a host of heavily armed militias and a spate of kidnappings since the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.


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