A undated handout picture released by the family of Rebecca Dykes through Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on December 17, 2017, shows Rebecca Dykes, a British woman employed at the UK embassy in Lebanon, who has been found murdered. Picture: AFP PHOTO / Family handout via Foreign & Commonweatlh Office (FCO)

Beirut — A British diplomat was found strangled by the side of the road east of the Lebanese capital Beirut and authorities are investigating whether she was also sexually assaulted, Lebanese officials said Sunday.

Britain's Foreign Office in London confirmed the death of the diplomat, named by British media and her friends as Rebecca Dykes. It said it was providing support to the family and declined to provide further details. A spokesperson at the embassy in Beirut also confirmed the death but didn't name the diplomat.

In a statement released by the Foreign Office, the family requested that the media respect their privacy "at this very difficult time."

"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca. We are doing all we can to understand what happened," her family said.

Friends said she was flying home for Christmas that day.

A Lebanese security official confirmed that the body of a woman was found by the side of a road east of Beirut early Saturday and that she was later identified as a staffer at the British embassy in Lebanon.

A forensic official told The Associated Press authorities are investigating the exact cause of the woman's death, and whether she was sexually assaulted. He said the woman, believed to be 30-years old, had been strangled with a rope.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorised to speak to reporters.

Associated Press