Three female British activists of Pakistani origin were raped by Libyan pro-government militiamen in the eastern city of Benghazi, after joining an aid convoy bound for Gaza to break an Israeli blockade, officials from several countries confirmed on Friday.
The victims were traveling with two male companions when they were kidnapped on Tuesday on their way to Benghazi airport after deciding to return to Britain, said Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Barassi, who visited the women in hospital.
The overland convoy left Britain on Feb. 25, but was stuck for days along the Libyan-Egyptian border after Egyptian guards refused to let them cross.
The women were in “very bad shape,” Barassi told Libya al-Hurra TV. Two of the women are sisters, and their father witnessed the rape, he added.
The 10-vehicle convoy carrying medical supplies was named Mavi Marmara, in honor of a ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza that was boarded by Israeli forces in 2010, said Huseyin Oruc of Turkish humanitarian relief organization IHH, which helped organize the 2010 international flotilla.
The raid resulted in the deaths of nine activists, including eight Turks and an American, and the wounding of dozens of activists and seven Israeli soldiers.
IHH mediated the release of the women and men. The man and his daughters were scheduled to return to Britain on Friday.
Less than two years after the country’s uprising, Libya is struggling to build a unified army and police force amid increasingly powerful militias. The government depends on some of them to fill the security vacuum, but has struggled to maintain control over their actions.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry condemned the attack, and said the Pakistani embassy in Libya had lodged a strong protest with the authorities.
“A heinous crime has been committed against these female activists,” he said, adding that he hoped stern action would be taken against the attackers.
Britain’s Foreign Office said it was aware of an incident involving British nationals who were part of an aid convoy. The office said the government was providing consular assistance, but did not elaborate.