July 31, 2015 / 8:26 AM / in 2 years

Four Indians held near Islamic State stronghold in Libya, two freed

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India said on Friday that four of its nationals had been detained near the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, an area that is under the control of Islamic State militants, but that it had secured the release of two of them.

The Indian men, who have been in Libya for more than a year and were working at Sirte University, were detained at a checkpoint about 50 km (30 miles) outside Sirte late on Wednesday while on their way back to India, Foreign Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said in a statement.

He later tweeted that two of them had been brought back safely to the university.

“I am happy we have been able to secure the release of Lakshmikant and Vijay Kumar,” Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted. “Trying for other two.”

Swarup did not say what group or individuals the Indian government believed were behind the detention of the men, but said the government was in touch with the families concerned.

Various militias and Islamist factions have been battling for control in Libya since autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

Separately, in Iraq, a group of 39 Indian construction workers have been held captive by Islamic State in Mosul for more than a year, despite attempts by the Indian government to secure their release.

Swaraj said she was also worried about many Indian nurses who were returning to Yemen, torn by civil war, a few months after being evacuated.

“Situation not normal and we do not hv Embassy there,” she tweeted.

Reporting by Krista Mahr, Andrew Macaskill and Krishna N. Das in New Delhi and Ulf Laessing in Cairo; Writing by Krista Mahr; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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