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Four Indians kidnapped in Libya by ISIS, two released

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New Delhi/Hyderabad: Four Indian nationals were abducted in Sirte in Libya where the Islamic State group holds sway. Two men were released on Friday, the government said.

Image by Guardian
Image by Guardian

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “Four Indians abducted in Libya – I am happy we have been able to secure the release of Lakshmikant and Vijay Kumar. Trying for other two.”

Of the two men released, one belongs to Raichur and the other to Bengaluru, said officials.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted: “Welcome news from Libya. 2 of the 4 detained Indians brought back safely to University of Sirte. Our efforts continue for the remaining two.”

Earlier, Swarup said the Indian mission in Tripoli came to know at 11 p.m. on July 29 that four Indian nationals who were returning to India via Tripoli and Tunis were “detained” at a check point, 50 km from Sirte.

In a statement, he said two of them are from Hyderabad and one from Raichur and one from Bengaluru.

Three were faculty members at the University of Sirte and one was working at the Sirte University branch at Jufra, he said.

The Islamic State is suspected to have carried out the kidnapping.

The Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments on Friday said they were making all efforts to seek the safe and early release of two men from the state who were among the four Indians kidnapped.

Andhra Pradesh NRI Affairs Minister Palle Raghunath Reddy said the state government was making efforts with the help of the Indian government and Libya to secure release of Balram, a native of Srikakulam district in north coastal Andhra.

One of them, Gopikrishna, is from Hyderabad. Balram is from neighbouring Andhra.

Family members of Gopikrishna said they had no information whether the four were kidnapped by ISIS or some other group.

Relatives and friends of Gopikrishna gathered at their residence in Nacharam in Hyderabad after learning about the kidnapping.

Gopikrishna has been working as an assistant professor at University of Sirte since 2007. According to family members, he has been coming home on leave every year for 45 to 50 days.

Kalyani, wife of Gopikrishna, said he spoke to her on Wednesday over phone and informed that he was coming home via Tunis. He also told her not to worry as his mobile phone will be switched off during the two-and-half hour long journey from the university to Tripoli.

“There was no phone call from him after that and yesterday we came to know about this incident,” she said.

“We came to know that they were stopped and taken into custody while car driver was sent back. We don’t know what happened after that,” a family member said.

The family members also contacted Indian embassy in Tripoli. The embassy officials told them that the issue will be sorted out in a day or two.

The kidnapping comes even as the fate of 39 Indians kidnapped in June 2014 from Mosul in Iraq remains unknown. The 39 were kidnapped by the Islamic State militants. The government maintains the men, all laborers from mostly Punjab, are still alive.

The Indian government had last year issued an advisory asking its citizens to leave Libya.

Libya has been hit by continuing violence with various militias and factions battling it out for control since Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

(IANS)

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Whether Extremism in E. Libya Will End After Derna Capture Or Not?

Haftar's army could wrench Derna from a coalition of local and Islamist fighters

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A view of destroyed buildings and cars after the street was controlled by forces loyal to Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Derna, Libya, June 13, 2018.
A view of destroyed buildings and cars after the street was controlled by forces loyal to Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Derna, Libya, June 13, 2018. VOA

Forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) are poised to capture the last remaining city outside of their control in eastern Libya, after weeks of heavy fighting, bombardment and airstrikes, and after years of siege.

Haftar’s army could wrench Derna from a coalition of local and Islamist fighters known as the Derna Protection Force, formerly known as the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council.

“What remains outside the control of our forces is considered a small combat zone, less than just 10 kilometers squared,” LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari told Reuters earlier this week. “The operations are in their final stages and the fighting is very heavy.”

Last month, Haftar’s forces renewed their offensive “to liberate Derna from terrorists.” Few experts, however, believe the city’s capture will be the end for jihadists in Libya.

Libya, Map
Libya, Map, Pixabay

“The fight against extremism is only going to be symbolically won by any LNA [Libyan national Army] takeover of Derna, or any other city for that matter,” said Darine El Hage, regional program officer at U.S. Institute of Peace’s Center for Middle East and Africa.

“Indeed, evidence has shown that grievances stemming from heavy-handed military and security measures might make people more susceptible to joining extremist groups,” she told VOA.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies based in Washington, said “if the LNA captures Derna and expels jihadists from the city, they will not be finished in Libya.”

“Jihadists already have a presence in the south of the country, among other areas,” he added.

 An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya Oct. 3, 2014.
An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna’s Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya Oct. 3, 2014. VOA

‘Escalating humanitarian crisis’

This week, both the United Nations and the human rights group Amnesty International sounded the alarm over the escalating humanitarian crisis in Derna.

“From the people we have spoken to inside Derna, they have explained that the situation is quite dire,” said Marwa Mohammed, Libya researcher with Amnesty International, in an interview with VOA.

“They’ve had very, very limited supplies that had gotten in, and that includes foodstuffs, medical supplies, fuel, cooking gas,” she said.

Amnesty International had earlier in the week issued a statement on the fighting in Derna, in which the human rights watchdog said unnecessary hardships are being inflicted on ordinary men, women and children by the use of “blockade tactics.”

According to Mohammed, people are afraid to flee Derna “because we do know there are people who are being arbitrarily detained, based on their profile” of being male and from Derna. After that, she said they disappear.

“What we are calling for is the protection of civilians, giving them free access to flee without been profiled,” said Mohammed.

‘Permissive environment’

With the Libyan National Army getting set to declare victory in Derna, many observers are pondering whether Haftar is considering something other than his stated goal of freeing Derna from the clutches of terrorists.

Khalifa Haftar (C), the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, leaves after an international conference on Libya in Paris, France, May 29, 2018.
Khalifa Haftar (C), the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, leaves after an international conference on Libya in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. VOA

“It is difficult to identify one single reason behind the timing of the battle,” said El Hage of USIP’s Center for Middle East and Africa.

“The underlying root causes that allow for radicalization in or outside of Derna, are not won by military victories, at least not for the long term,” she said.

Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says the best-case scenario, from a humanitarian and strategic point of view, is for the fighting in Derna to end quickly. If it gets drawn out, he said jihadists will be able to regroup and build their networks.

Also read: Sudanese Children of Islamic State (ISIS) Militants Released in Libya

“Libya will remain a permissive environment until a political entity emerges with the will and capability to deny jihadists the ability to operate,” he said.