Tripoli: A group of "Islamist extremists"
have taken hostage members of the security forces and
civilians in a city of unrest-swept eastern Libya, a senior
Libyan official said on Sunday.
"A group of Islamist extremists ... is holding hostage
security elements and civilians, threatening to execute them
unless a siege by security forces is lifted" in Al-Baida, the
official said, asking not to be named.
The group calls itself "Islamic Emirate of Barqa," after
the ancient name of a region of northwest Libya, he said.
Justice Minister Mustafa Abdeljalil started
negotiations late on Saturday for the hostage-takers to
release their captives, he said. "But we will not negotiate
over Libya's integrity under any circumstances."
The official said the same group was responsible for
the hanging of two policemen in al Qaeda on Friday that was
reported in Oea newspaper.
According to Human Rights Watch, at least 23 people
have died in Al-Baida since Tuesday in clashes between
security forces and protesters against the four-decade rule of
Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
Libya has over the past five years freed around 850
prisoners from different Islamist groups, 360 of them since
March. Among those released were jihadists with ties to
al Qaeda's Iraqi and North African franchises, including
senior members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)
such as its chief Abdelhakim Belhaj.
In November 2007, al Qaeda number two Ayman
al-Zawahiri allegedly said the LIFG had joined his network, in
an unverified audio recording posted online.
But the Kadhafi Foundation headed by Seif al-Islam,
son of Kadhafi, said in 2008 that Islamists held in Libyan
prisons and previously linked to al Qaeda had renounced their
First Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011, 21:44