Asia Philippines denies report nurses kidnapped

Philippines denies report nurses kidnapped

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Charles Jose
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Charles Jose

(AA) – The Philippine government has denied that four Filipino nurses have been kidnapped by militants in Libya, contrary to recent news reports.

Charles Jose, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said officials at the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli were able to contact one of the nurses, who said they were all “safe.”

“A local friend concerned of their safety moved them to a safer accommodation,” Jose said in a statement. “The reports are false. Our embassy has verified this information.”

According to reports Monday, the Filipino nurses were among up to 20 foreign medical workers abducted by around 30 gunmen of a Daesh-affiliated militant group from Ibn Sina Hospital in the coastal city of Sirte.

The fate of seven more Filipinos kidnapped by militants from Libyan oil fields over the last two months, however, remains unknown.

“The embassy is still exerting all efforts to locate their whereabouts,” Jose said, explaining that no one had claimed responsibility for the separate abductions and employers had not received ransom demands.

Since July 2014, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has imposed Alert Level 4 on Libya, which means mandatory repatriation for all nationals in the country.

However, some 4,000 Filipinos have not been repatriated and remain in Libya due to economic reasons.

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

Libya’s military spokesperson, Ahmed al-Mesmari, warned earlier this month that Daesh’s long-term goal is to take over the country’s petroleum industry.