The Tunisian authorities have detained 24 “armed Europeans” who recently crossed into the country from Libya, according to local officials.
“An armed group consisting of 13 French nationals attempted to cross the border in 4x4 vehicles at the Ras Jedir crossing on Sunday,” Interior Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi told reporters on Tuesday.
According to Zbidi, members of the group had initially refused to surrender their weapons but were eventually persuaded to do so by the local authorities.
In a separate incident, the minister added, 11 people of different European nationalities -- holding diplomatic passports -- had recently tried to enter Tunisian waters from Libya in two rubber life rafts.
“The Tunisian navy confiscated their weapons and handed them over to the National Guard,” Zbidi said, without saying when exactly the incident had occurred.
In a Monday statement, the French embassy in Tunis said the French nationals were members of a security detail attached to the French embassy in Libya.
But according to local media reports, the visitors had come from the Libyan city of Garyan where they had been advising forces led by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Earlier this month, Haftar, who commands forces loyal to Libya’s eastern-based government, embarked on an ambitious campaign to capture Tripoli, where Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) is headquartered.
On Monday, the GNA announced that at least 76 people had been killed near Tripoli in ongoing clashes between Haftar’s forces and those loyal to the GNA.
Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of President Muammar Gaddafi after four decades in power.
Since then, the country’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, with which Haftar is associated, and another in Tripoli, which enjoys UN recognition.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.