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Two Tunisians abducted in Libya freed

A Tunisian diplomat and a fellow embassy staffer abducted in Libya earlier this year were freed by their abductors on Sunday after months in captivity.

TRIPOLI: A Tunisian diplomat and a fellow embassy staffer abducted in Libya earlier this year were freed by their abductors on Sunday after months in captivity.

Tunisia's Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa confirmed their release and said they were on their way back home.

"I want to inform you that several minutes ago a plane left Tripoli with our compatriots who had been held," Jomaa said in a press conference at the foreign ministry.

Embassy employee Mohamed ben Sheikh was kidnapped in Tripoli on March 21 while diplomat Al-Aroussi Kontassi was seized April 17.

The pair had been freed through "the efforts of the Tunisian authorities in collaboration with the Libyan authorities whom we thank for their cooperation", Jomaa said alongside Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi.

Hamdi declined to give details on the circumstances of their release but said no ransom had been paid.

He also said that Tunisia's contact was with the Libyan authorities and not with the kidnappers whose identity he did not know, though he added their motivation was "political".

Diplomats in Tripoli say militias which fought to topple the Muammar Gaddafi regime in the 2011 uprising often carry out kidnappings to blackmail other countries into releasing Libyans they hold.

Hamdi said the abductors had demanded the release of Libyans imprisoned in Tunisia on terrorism charges, but that they would not be freed.

The abductions of the Tunisians took place during a string of attacks targeting diplomats in the Libyan capital.

Jordan's ambassador to Libya has also been kidnapped and Portugal's embassy was attacked by gunmen.

Libya has been awash with weapons since the end of the uprising that killed Gaddafi and has been gripped by increasing lawlessness.

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