Tripoli: Militants from the Islamic State affiliate in Libya kidnapped four nurses from the Philippines in broad daylight from a hospital in the city of Sirte, while several others were evacuated on Monday, a militia official said.
The official who belongs to the 166 Battalion, a militia which is battling the Islamic State affiliate, told The Associated Press that the kidnapping took place in the afternoon from Sirte’s main hospital, called Ibn Sina. He added that his battalion helped evacuate the remaining foreign medical crew in the hospital to the city of Misrata, where the battalion is based.
The incident adds to growing a list of foreign nationals including Filipinos who were seized during the same group’s raids on oil fields south of Sirte in recent weeks.
In Manila, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the Philippine embassy in Tripoli has been asked to verify the reported kidnappings so the government can take steps to deal with the problem.
The Philippines, one of the world’s largest labor exporters, has banned the deployment of workers to Libya due to the escalating violence. But about 4,000 Filipino workers and dependents have remained in the strife-torn country despite a government offer to repatriate them, Jose said.
The battalion had also come under attack by a car bomber a day earlier, according to witnesses who said that the bomber struck the militia’s base Misrata, killing one person and injuring a second.
The official and the witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press and for fear of reprisal. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. It comes amid ongoing clashes between militants of an Islamic State affiliate in Libya and the militia near the central city of Sirte.
Libya, engulfed in militia violence and torn between dueling governments, has been gripped by turmoil since its 2011 civil war and the killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The IS-affiliated militants carried out a deadly attack on a luxury hotel in Tripoli in January, and in February released a video showing them beheading 21 Egyptian Christians. The Egyptian military launched airstrikes on the IS stronghold of Darna in retaliation.