Ten Tunisian officials were kidnapped on Friday when an armed Libyan group stormed the country’s consulate building in the capital city of Tripoli, according to the Tunisian Foreign Ministry. The assailants and the group they belong to were not identified.
The kidnapping is a "blatant attack on Tunisian national sovereignty and a flagrant violation of international law,” the ministry statement said.
The Tunisian government said it was working on securing the hostages’ release with “Libyan, regional and international parties,” the statement added.
Tripoli is the center of Libya’s General National Congress, one of two government bodies and several armed factions currently fighting for control of the country. The GNC is supported by Libya Dawn, an umbrella group of militias made up of fighters ranging from secular tribesmen from Misrata to more radical Islamist fighters.
Libya is also home to Ansar al-Sharia, a terrorist group with former ties to al Qaeda. A militant group by the same name is also active in Tunisia.
Recently the notorious Islamic State group (aka ISIS) has also made gains in the Tripoli area. The capital is now part of Wilayat Barqa, one of three self-declared wilayat (states) the group has outlined in Libya. Each so-called state has ISIS media, military, training and recruitment operations, but the size of their physical presence varies by area. Earlier this week ISIS seized the major coastal city of Sirte, a halfway point between Libya’s two most important cities, Tripoli and Benghazi.
Friday’s attack on the Tunisian consulate is one of several on embassies in recent months. In April, gunmen attacked the South Korean embassy in Tripoli, killing two security guards. A day later, a bomb exploded outside the Moroccan Embassy in Libya’s capital. The ISIS affiliates in Libya claimed responsibility for both attacks.
Meanwhile on Friday, at least seven people were fatally shot and roughly 30 were wounded in the Libyan city of Derna after they staged a protest against the growing ISIS presence, according to Reuters. Derna is home to the Shura Council of the Youth of Islam, one of the first jihadist groups to pledge allegiance to ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.