ISIS Seized Filipinos in Libya, Austria Says

VIENNA (UPDATED) – Islamic State militants in Libya seized a group of foreigners at the al-Ghani oilfield last week, a spokesman for the Austrian foreign ministry said citing “secure information” on Monday, adding that they were alive when taken.

There has been no sign since of the nine oil workers from Austria, the Czech republic, Bangladesh, the Philippines and at least one African country who went missing, the spokesman said.

“We know that they were not injured when they were transported away from the al-Ghani oilfield,” the spokesman said, adding Austria had information the group was taken by Islamic State militants.

Foreigners have increasingly become targets in Libya’s turmoil, where two rival governments are battling for control and Islamist extremists have grown in the chaos that followed Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster four years ago.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said Monday that 4 Filipinos were among the foreigners abducted after a militant attack on a Libyan oil field.

Assistant Secretary and DFA spokesman Charles Jose, however, said they have yet to determine which group abducted the Filipinos and other foreigners.

“At time of the attack, 2 weeks na hindi nag-ooperate ang oil field na yun, isinara na dahil sa attacks sa ibang oil field… During that time may natira na Pinoys, sila ang nadukot,” Jose said in a press briefing.

“Hindi natin alam sino may hawak sa kanila. Sa Libya ang situation, maraming armed groups na naglalaban-laban hindi mo alam sino responsible,” he added.

Reuters earlier quoted Libya’s state oil company as saying at least seven foreigners including an Austrian, a Czech, Filipinos and a national of an African country were missing after the attack on the al-Ghani oil field.

“Foreigners from an Austrian oil services company, operating in the field, are still missing since the attack. We do not know their fate,” National Oil Corporation spokesman Mohamed El-Hariri said.

Libya’s oil security forces also said they had retaken control of the oilfield after Islamist militants attacked the facility, killing 11 guards. Several of those were beheaded, one official said.

Jose said the DFA has gotten in touch with the families of the four Filipinos to inform them of their kin’s situation.

Since July 2014, the DFA has imposed Alert Level 4 on Libya, which means a total deployment ban and mandatory repatriation for all Filipinos.

“Although sabi natin mandatory, but at the end of the day, it is still their personal decision. We can’t force them physically [to leave],” Jose said.

Despite the mandatory repatriation, he said many Filipinos still remain in Libya refuse to leave due to economic reasons.

“Concerned sila if umuwi, they can’t find work here with a commensurate salary with what they’re getting in Libya,” Jose said.

Libyan militants claiming loyalty to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have been blamed for high-profile attacks this year involving foreigners, including an assault on a Tripoli hotel and the beheading of a group of Egyptian Christians.

Militants this month also stormed and damaged several Libyan oilfields around al-Ghani, forcing the government to declare force majeure, pull out workers and shut down production on 11 oilfields in the central Sirte basin. – with reports from Reuters


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