May 27, 2017 03:00 AM PST
SINCE 2007

4 Pinoy nurses among 20 abducted by ISIS in Libya


Militants belonging to the Islamic State affiliate in Libya abducted about 20 doctors and nurses from hospital in the coastal city of Sirte so they can treat injured terrorist, according to Libyan officials.


The health workers, including at least four nurses from the Philippines, were taken hostage by more than 30 ISIS gunmen after barging into the Ibn Sina Hospital in Sirte on Monday as the victims were in the process of evacuating the war-torn city, a hospital official told CNN.

The official said the staffers — who hail from Asia and Europe — planned to go to Tripoli because ISIS-controlled Sirte had become too dangerous.

Abducted to treat wounded

The militants took the group hostage as they boarded a Tripoli-bound bus because they were the only medical experts left in Sirte — and the only people who could treat injured terrorists, the hospital said.

The 20 captive medical personnel were from the Philippines, Ukraine, India and Serbia, according to multiple Arab media reports.

According to reports from various Arab media, the hostages are Filipinos, Indians, Serbs and Ukrainians.

According to Libyan officials, the medical workers were taken by radical gunmen belonging to Operation Shuruq, which is expected to escalate in the coming days. Operation Shuruq is tied to the General National Congress in Tripoli, which is not recognized by the international community.

The hostages, who worked at the hospital Ibn Sina, were seized by a band of about 30 militants from the Tafkiri group, affiliated to the Islamic Caliphate. According to reports, the guerrillas captured them to take care of their wounded.

People flee violence

The medical staffers were part of a larger exodus of people trying to get out of Sirte as violence intensified.

According to the local website Al Wasat, dozens of families fled from Sirte on Monday after two days of intense clashes between Islamic State militants and fighters loyal to the self-declared Tripoli government.

Families packed into cars and headed west toward the city of Misrata, stronghold of the Libya Dawn armed group that backs the Tripoli government.

Last week, gunmen allegedly associated with ISIS captured nine foreigners, including four Filipinos, and beheaded eight Libyan guards when during a raid of an oil field in central Libya.

According to reports, the forces of the General National Congress of Tripoli are ready to attack Sirte to take control of the stations now in the hands of the Islamic state. The forces of the Brigade 166 militia along with those of Operation Shuruq are grouping in the Qardabiya airbase east of Sirte.

An official who belongs to the 166 Battalion, a militia which is battling the Islamic State affiliate, told The Associated Press that the kidnapping took place in the afternoon from Sirte's main hospital, called Ibn Sina.

The official said that his battalion helped evacuate the remaining foreign medical crew in the hospital to the city of Misrata, where the battalion is based.

The incident adds to growing a list of foreign nationals including Filipinos who were seized during the same group's raids on oil fields south of Sirte in recent weeks.

In Manila, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the Philippine embassy in Tripoli has been asked to verify the reported kidnappings so the government can take steps to deal with the problem.

4,000 OFWs in Libya

The Philippines, one of the world's largest labor exporters, has banned the deployment of workers to Libya due to the escalating violence. But an estimated 4,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and dependents have remained in the strife-torn country despite a government offer to repatriate them, Jose said.

The battalion had also come under attack by a car bomber a day earlier, according to witnesses who said that the bomber struck the militia's base Misrata, killing one person and injuring a second.

The official and the witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press and for fear of reprisal.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. It comes amid ongoing clashes between militants of an Islamic State affiliate in Libya and the militia near the central city of Sirte.

Libya, engulfed in militia violence and torn between dueling governments, has been gripped by turmoil since its 2011 civil war and the killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The IS-affiliated militants carried out a deadly attack on a luxury hotel in Tripoli in January, and in February released a video showing them beheading 21 Egyptian Christians. The Egyptian military launched airstrikes on the IS stronghold of Darna in retaliation. (With FilAm Star wires)