TUNIS (Reuters) - Dozens of Tunisians kidnapped in Libya in retaliation for the arrest of a Libyan official in Tunisia this week have been released, the Tunisian foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
The ministry said in a statement the release of the Tunisians had come after “high contacts with the authorities in Libya”. It gave no further details, though security sources said 55 Tunisians had arrived home from Libya after their abduction.
Gunmen had kidnapped the Tunisians in northwestern Libya on Monday to demand the release of the Libyan official who had been arrested on Saturday along with another Libyan at Tunis airport while on a visit organized by the United Nations.
Tunisian officials were not immediately available to say whether the two Libyans had also been released.
Armed groups in chaotic Libya often act with impunity because of a security vacuum in which two rival governments and their armed backers are fighting for control of the North African state four years after Muammar Gaddafi’s fall from power.
Tunisians and other foreign nationals have been kidnapped or detained in the past to pressure their governments to release Libyans held overseas.
An armed group stormed the Tunisian consulate in Tripoli and kidnapped 10 staff this year before releasing them. Tunisia closed the consulate after the kidnapping.
Relations between the two North African neighbors have become increasingly tense, with Tunisia’s government worried about spillover from the chaos that continues to plague Libya.
Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Gareth Jones