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Libya gunmen release Tunisian diplomats

Tunisian diplomats abducted by Libyan militia have been released and are flying home. Tunisia has meanwhile shut its consulate in Tripoli and advised Tunisians to leave Libya.

A group of 10 Tunisia's diplomats, kidnapped by gunmen in Libya, was released on Friday, the foreign ministry in Tunis said. Tunisia also decided to close its consulate in Tripoli (pictured above).

"After this serious incident, we have decided to close the consulate in Tripoli," Foreign Minister Taieb Baccouche told journalists.

Trading captives?

Walid Klib, a Libyan militia leader who had been in Tunisian custody, was also sent to Libya.

"The page of the Tunisian consulate will be turned and they will return to their families" when the Klib returns to his family, Jamal Zubia, spokesman for the Libyan militia, based in Tripoli, wrote on Facebook.

Tunisian officials, however, denied that there had been any kind of prisoner exchange with the Libyan Dawn militia and argued that Klib's extradition was done according to a 1961 agreement between the two neighboring countries.

"The Foreign Ministry had no link to this affair which relates to the Justice [Ministry]," Baccouche told Tunisian radio.

Tunis warns citizens

A group of militants in Libya, known as the Libyan Dawn, captured 172 Tunisians in May to push for gunman Klib's release. When the Tunisian government did not give in, they stormed the consulate in Tripoli last week and held its occupants hostage. The other hostages Tunisian taken by Libyan Dawn were later released.

Tunis has warned its citizens not to travel to Libya. Around 60,000 Tunisians work in the neighboring country despite the unstable political situation.

Libya has been divided between rival factions ever since ruler Moammar Gadhafi was ousted in 2011. One faction, under the Libyan Dawn, rules from Tripoli, while the internationally recognized government operates from the Libyan port city of Tobruk.

mg/sms (AP, AFP)

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