By George Grant.
Tripoli, 14 July:
Two Misratan journalists captured in Bani Walid last Sunday are still being held, in spite of reports earlier today that a delegation from Jadu had managed to secure their release.
The journalists, Yusuf Baadi and Abdul Qader Fusuq, were picked up in Bani Walid on their way back from Mizdah where they had been covering the elections for Misrata’s Tobacts TV station.
“Bani Walid has refused to release them”, Ahmed Shlak, a fellow journalist at Tobacts TV, told the Libya Herald this evening by telephone. “They have sent the delegation from Jadu out”.
Earlier today, Mustafa Algleb, a Misrata member of the NTC, also confirmed to this paper that the journalists were still being held. “They have not been released and we don’t know what’s happening”, he said.
In the past six days, delegations from various Libyan cities have been dispatched to Bani Walid in an effort to resolve the crisis, with none proving successful thus far. The most recent delegation, from Jadu, was reported to have arrived in the town yesterday evening.
In a new development, diplomats in Tripoli have said that there are now moves for delegations from Misrata and Bani Walid to discuss the issue face-to-face on neutral ground in the east of the country at Bayda.
This evening, the Libya Herald also received credible reports that three, potentially four more Misratans were captured in Bani Walid on Thursday.
At a visit to the frontline checkpoint of Bir Dufan yesterday, guards informed this paper that three Misratans – subsequently confirmed as being from the government’s Libya Shield brigade – passed through the station and did not return.
It is now understood that their vehicle came under attack and that two of the men, Omran Shaban and Mohammed Al-Ouyb, have been taken to hospital in Bani Walid for treatment. Both the fate and the identity of the third man remains unknown.
On the same day, Abdul Aziz Harous, an independent journalist from Misrata, was reportedly captured in Bani Walid and is also being held.
The standoff has threatened to reignite long-standing tensions between the two cities, which were exacerbated when they took opposing sides during last year’s revolution.
However, in spite of fears of a potential assault on Bani Walid by government forces to free the men, the authorities in Tripoli now appear set on finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis, with Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib said to be personally involved.
The army is not surrounding Bani Walid at present and commanders from Misrata have confirmed they will not take action without government authorisation.