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Tunisian workers kidnapped in Libya

Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar patrol in the southern Libyan city of Sebha, on February 9, 2019. (File/AFP)
Militiamen have kidnapped a group of Tunisian workers near the Libyan capital Tripoli, demanding Tunis release a comrade, the foreign ministry and a rights activist said.

"The foreign ministry is following the case of the Tunisian citizens... kidnapped by armed Libyan elements near Zawiya", the ministry said on its Facebook page late Friday.

Rights activist Mustapha Abdelkebir said the armed group behind Thursday's kidnappings was demanding the release of one of its members held in Tunisia.

The kidnap victims were workers at Zawiya oil refinery, Tunisian media said. A diplomatic source told AFP that 14 workers had been taken hostage.

"The minister has spoken to his Libyan counterpart to insist on the protection of the detainees, accelerate their release and ensure that they return safe and sound", the ministry said in a statement.

Tunisia reopened a consulate in Libya in 2018, after shutting it three years earlier due to the kidnapping of 10 Tunisian diplomats.

The Libyan militia which carried out the 2015 kidnapping had demanded the release of one of its leaders, Walid Glib, detained in Tunisia as part of a counter-terrorism investigation.

The diplomats were released after several days and Walid Glib was later deported to Tripoli.

Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord said it had no information on Thursday's abduction and that it was looking into the matter.

The country has been mired in chaos since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, as two rival administrations and numerous militias grapple for power.