By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 20 April 2014:
The Iraqi embassy in Tripoli is working normally and diplomatic staff have not fled to . . .[restrict]Tunisia, the embassy said today.
“The ambassador and the diplomatic mission are here in Tripoli and we never left Libya,” an embassy official told the Libya Herald.
Tunisian media had reported that the ambassador and key diplomatic personnel had fled to Tunisia on Friday, following the kidnapping of the Jordanian ambassador Fawwaz Al-Eitan last week. Reports said the diplomats were afraid they would be abducted and used as a bargaining chip to release Libyans held in Iraqi prisons, after Eitan’s kidnappers demanded the release of a Libyan militant Islamist Mohamed Dersi serving a life sentence in a Jordanian prison.
Two Iraqis living in Libya have been targeted in the last six months. In March, an Iraqi national was shot dead on the outskirts of Sirte and, in November last year, professor Hamid Khalf was kidnapped in Derna.
Embassy staff said the reasons behind the abduction remained unclear. A video claiming to show his execution, in retaliation for the hanging of Libyan prisoner Adel Zuwai, was later circulated on social media networks but this was not verified. Some six Libyans are understood to be facing the death penalty in Iraq, on terrorism-related charges.
Shortly after Zuwai’s execution, the Iraqi embassy did briefly evacuate over fears of retaliation.
The kidnapping of Eitan, as well as of a Tunisian embassy advisor last week and of the Tunisian ambassador’s secretary last month, has sparked a wave of rumours suggesting diplomatic missions were slashing staff. So far, the Tunisian embassy is the only diplomatic mission to have said publicly it was reducing staff. There have been other departures, however.
The Italian ambassador Giuseppe Buccino Grimaldi returned to Tripoli yesterday, after a brief 36 hours with his family over the Easter holiday, putting an end to rumours that he would not be returning.
The Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs today insisted that ambassadors were not leaving the country. It cited in particular, according to the Libyan news agency LANA, those of Germany, Canada and the UAE. [/restrict]