SHAFAQNA (Shia international news association) - Iran has called on the Libyan government to secure the release of its nationals abducted by an unknown armed militia in the eastern city of Benghazi earlier this week.
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran's deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, criticised Libyan authorities for failing to provide necessary security for the seven members of the Iranian Red Crescent who were on a humanitarian mission inside the country, Iran's English-language television, Press TV, reported.
The Reuters agency reported that the seven men were on their way back to the hotel in middle of Benghazi when the armed group kidnapped the aid workers from their vehicles.
"An armed group detained at 1am a delegation of seven members of the Iranian Red Crescent after they left the headquarters of the Libyan Red Crescent in Benghazi," the Libyan Red Crescent Association said in a statement confirming the reports about their kidnapping. The vehicle's driver who was a local was reported not to have been abducted.
"The Libyan Red Crescent Association urges the group ... to release (the abductees) in recognition of the Iranian Red Crescent Association's support and assistance to the 17 February Revolution and in consideration for all (aid) organisations that stood by us," it said.
Iran has assured the men's families that it is actively pursuing the men's release. Libyan officials at the same said that the seven are believed to be safe and healthy, according to the Iranian semi-official Fars news agency.
"We have instructed our country's embassy in Libya to pursue the issue as immediately as possible," Iran's deputy foreign minister for parliamentary and consular affairs, Hassan Qashqavi, was quoted on the state-run English-language newspaper, Tehran Times, as saying. "We hope that the release of these people will be obtained through the follow-up of the Iranian embassy and the cooperation of Libyan officials."
Meanwhile, the AFP news agency quoted an anonymous security official as saying that the Iranian aid workers were being interrogated by the militia.
"Members of the brigade holding the Iranians are questioning them to determine whether their activities and intentions aimed to spread the doctrine of Shia Islam," said the security official, according to the AFP. "They will be released after the investigation is concluded ... the team is being treated well and has not been subjected to any abuse."
The human rights organisation, Amnesty International, on Wednesday called on the Libyan militia to immediately and unconditionally release the seven men.
"The seven Iranian Red Crescent members must be allowed to go free. The armed militiamen holding them must immediately grant them contact with the outside world and ensure their safety," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, Hassiba Hadj, Sahraoui. "It is deeply worrying that the seven Iranians invited to Libya to discuss co-operation in the humanitarian field have been lawlessly abducted and held.