June 13, 2015 / 3:50 PM / in 2 years

Tunisian diplomats kidnapped in Tripoli in good condition: Libyan official

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Ten Tunisian consular staff kidnapped in Libya’s capital Tripoli are in good condition and contact has been made with their captors, the interior minister for Libya’s self-declared government said on Saturday.

Tunisia said on Friday an armed group had stormed the consulate and kidnapped staff. Most diplomats left Tripoli after an armed faction called Libya Dawn took over the city and set up its own government there last summer.

“I am in contact with the group who abducted the Tunisian staff and hopefully the staff will be freed soon,” Interior Minister Mohamed Shaiteer told Reuters. “They are in good condition.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but Libya is in turmoil with two rival governments and their armed factions -- one in Tripoli and the other, internationally recognized administration in the east -- battling for control.

Gunmen have kidnapped Egyptian, Jordanian and Tunisian diplomats and citizens before in an attempt to force the release of Libyan militants and fighters held in those countries.

Tunisian authorities last month arrested Walid Kalib, a member of Libya Dawn. On Thursday, a Tunisian court refused to release Kalib who faces kidnapping charges in Tunisia.

Libya Dawn, a loose alliance of former rebel brigades and Islamist-leaning groups, seized power in Tripoli last summer, expelling the existing government which now operates from the east.

Most countries closed their embassies during the fighting that ensued, but Tunisia has recently sent consular staff back to Tripoli.

Relations between the North African neighbors have become increasingly tense, with Tunisia’s government worried about spillover from the chaos that continues to plague Libya four years after the overthrow of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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