Rights group: 14 Tunisian workers kidnapped in Libya

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TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Libyan authorities helped free 14 Tunisian workers Sunday who were kidnapped by an armed group near Libya’s capital, the Tunisian government said.

The Tunisian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday night that the hostages had been seized Thursday in the town of Zawiva by militants demanding the release of a jailed Libyan. The Tunisians were released and taken to offices of the Zawiva security authorities, the statement said.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemais Jhinaoui phoned his Libyan counterpart to thank him and the Libyan unity government for helping the hostages.

Jhinaoui earlier had pressed Libyan authorities to take action. He met Saturday with Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Tahar Siala on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, according to another Tunisian government statement. The Libyan minister stressed his country was working to get the Tunisians freed, according to the statement.

Details on who was holding the Tunisian workers were not made public. The 14 were abducted on the outskirts of Zawiva, a city in western Libya.

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The National Commission for Human Rights in Libya said late Saturday that the Tunisians were abducted while on their way to work at an oil refinery in Zawiva. It said the armed group, which it did not identify, demanded the release of a Libyan man, also unnamed, who was detained in Tunisia on drug-related charges.

In 2015, an armed militia stormed the Tunisian consulate in Tripoli and took 10 staff members hostage.

Libya slid into chaos after a 2011 uprising that toppled long-time ruler Moammar Gadhafi. The country is currently governed by militia-backed rival authorities in Tripoli and the east.

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