AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa

Armed group storms Tunisian consulate in Libya

Armed militia takes 10 consulate employees hostage; Tunisia says it is working to secure their release

Tunisia's foreign ministry said Friday that an armed militia has attacked the Tunisian general consulate in Libya's capital and taken 10 employees hostage.

The ministry issued a statement condemning the attack, calling it "a vile aggression" against Tunisia's sovereignty and a violation of international conventions protecting diplomatic personnel.

The ministry statement said Tunisia's government was monitoring the situation and working to secure the release of the employees.

Tunisia is one of the few countries that still has a mission in Tripoli, which is controlled by a government not recognized by the international community.

Libya has descended into chaos since a NATO-backed revolt unseated longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. It has rival governments and parliaments, and powerful militias are battling for influence and a share of its oil wealth.

Authorities were unable to say where the kidnapped people had been taken.

"All government services are following developments with interest in coordination with Libyan, regional and international parties, to liberate without delay the Tunisian mission team and guarantee its safety," the ministry said.

It criticized what it said was "flagrant violation of Tunisia's international sovereignty and international and diplomatic norms.”

The ministry advised Tunisians in Libya to leave the country "if possible" and to avoid traveling there "unless absolutely necessary."

Tunis did not say who had carried out the kidnapping in Tripoli, which is controlled by the Fajr Libya militia alliance.

Last month, a militia forming part of the coalition ruling Tripoli seized 245 Tunisians in the Libyan capital. All were later released unharmed.

A Tunisian diplomat and an embassy employee were kidnapped last year before being released.

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

Wire services

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Africa, Libya, Tunisia

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