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May 20, 2011

Libyan Rebels Free 4 Detained Frenchmen

The foreign ministry of France says four French nationals held by Libyan rebels on suspicion of spying have been freed.

A ministry statement Saturday said the four men were brought to Egypt and taken into the care of French consular officials.

The four worked for a private security firm and were detained by Libyan rebel forces in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi late last week. A fifth member of the group, Pierre Marziali, was shot at the checkpoint and later died of his wounds. Marziali was the founder of the SECOPEX security firm.

The French nationals are not the only foreigners who have been caught up in the unrest in Libya.

In the western town of Zawiya Saturday, angry Libyans attacked a bus carrying foreign journalists. News reports said the attack stemmed at least in part from anger over fuel shortages.

Reporters on the bus said the incident began when their minibus stalled in a fuel line, as they were heading to the Tunisian border. Members of a crowd stormed through the bus door, at least one of them carrying a knife.

The journalists said attackers slashed the bus's tires, and that a man with a gun shot in the air to disperse them. The journalists survived unharmed.

The conflict in Libya between rebels and forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi has been going on for months.

On Friday, a NATO spokesman said the alliance's air campaign over Libya has effectively forced Mr. Gadhafi into hiding and hampered the Libyan leader's ability to control his forces.

Bracken's comments came after NATO said it had launched a series of airstrikes that targeted warships used by pro-government forces. NATO said it hit vessels that were in the ports of Sirte, Al Khums and the capital, Tripoli.  

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to support U.S. efforts in Libya, which are part the NATO-led multi-national coalition.  The president sent a letter to lawmakers on Friday, the 60-day deadline to get congressional approval for the use of war powers.