By Stefanos Evripidou
TWO Cypriot men were briefly abducted by armed militia in Libya on Thursday morning over a ‘private matter’ only to be released the same day, sending friends and media into panic for fear they may have been taken by Islamic militants.
According to a laconic foreign ministry statement, the two Cypriot citizens are in good health and in contact with their families.
The ministry yesterday expressed its “disapproval of the dissemination of false, misleading and irresponsible rumours”, a clear reference to local press reports regarding the abduction of the two on Thursday, which “caused upset” to their families as well as to the remaining Cypriots in Libya.
The rumours could have put at risk the positive outcome of the case, said the ministry, which remained tight-lipped regarding the details of the two men’s brief abduction and subsequent release.
A source confirmed to the Cyprus Mail last night that the two men were taken by members of an armed militia in Tripoli in the early hours of Thursday morning, and released by the afternoon.
The source explained that due to the chaos permeating Libya, state institutions are not currently functioning in the capital, which is run by various ‘gangs’ or militia.
The armed men who abducted the two Cypriots were not connected to the Islamic State or any such jihadist movement, but were members of one such militia ruling the roost over a part of the capital. The Cypriots appear to have been taken by the armed men over a “private matter”.
From the moment they were abducted, the ministry put into motion its prepared crisis response, coordinating with various services and stakeholders involved to free the men, who were subsequently released the same day.
The ministry decided to suspend its embassy’s operations in Tripoli last July after weeks of bitter fighting between rival militias, the worst the country had seen since the civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides at the time said the situation had gotten “out of control” and issued advice for Cypriots still working in Libya to leave the war-torn country.
On August 1, some 12 Cypriots, including embassy personnel, and a third country national married to one of them were evacuated from Libya by a Greek warship. Two others returned to Cyprus via Tunisia.
Six Cypriot nationals decided to stay in Libya.