April 18 (Bloomberg) -- A group of about 80 Tunisian oil workers abducted in Libya have been freed, Tunisian authorities said today.
The group was taken several days ago near the border with Tunisia, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. A Libyan armed group released the Tunisians, who were taken in retaliation for the arrest of three Libyans in Tunisia, the Interior Ministry said in a separate statement.
The Tunisian-Libyan border area has seen an increase in violence and smuggling in recent months, and the incident underscored the security woes that prevail in oil-rich Libya following the civil war that ousted Muammar Qaddafi last year.
Libya’s new government has struggled to rein in the armed militias that are built around regional and tribal loyalties. The groups were instrumental in toppling Qaddafi from power and have largely refused to disarm before the central government provides more funding and services to their respective regions.
Libya’s deputy interior minister, Amr al-Khodrawi, was quoted by the Libya News Agency late yesterday as denying reports of the kidnapping.
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