Tunisia shuts down consulate in Libya’s Tripoli

Tunisia's decisionowing to close its consular operations in Libya's capital came following the abduction of 10 staffers

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Tunisia's government has decided to close its consular operations in Libya's capital Tripoli after gunmen stormed its consulate a week ago and kidnapped 10 staff, Foreign Minister Taieb Baccouche told reporters on Friday.

All 10 diplomatic staff have been freed and they returned to Tunisia on Friday.

“They have all been freed and they will arrive today (Friday) in Tunis,” Baccouche told Mosaique FM radio, a day after Tunisia said that three of the 10 consular workers had been released.

The government gave no details on the negotiations to free them, but their release came after a Tunisian court agreed to extradite a Libyan held in Tunisia on terrorism and kidnapping charges.

The prosecutor’s office told AFP that the man, identified in media reports as Walid Glib, had been detained on suspicion of “involvement in terrorist affairs”.

Spokesman Karim Chebbi said the “criminal division of the Tunisian Court of Appeal on Wednesday decided on his provisional expulsion at the request of the Libyan authorities”.

But Baccouche denied any deal was struck with the kidnappers in exchange for the release of the consular workers.

He said that the case of Glib, who had been arrested in May upon his arrival with Tunisia, was in the “hands of the judiciary”.

The 10 staffers were abducted on June 12 when gunmen stormed the mission in Tripoli, which is under the control of the powerful Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) militia alliance.

Libya descended into chaos after a revolt unseated longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. It now has rival governments and parliaments, as well as powerful militias battling for influence and a share of its oil wealth.

Foreign citizens and missions have been frequently targeted in Libya.

Last month, militiamen allegedly linked to Glib seized 245 Tunisians in Tripoli to put pressure on Tunis for his release, but they were later freed unharmed.

And in January, the Libyan branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group claimed the killing of two Tunisian journalists who had gone missing in eastern Libya eight months earlier.

The radical Sunni Muslim jihadist group has taken advantage of the chaos in Libya to gain supporters in the oil-rich North African country, where it has also claimed beheadings of Christians from Egypt and Ethiopia.

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