Kerry condoles Serbian PM for officials killed in Libya

US Secretary of State John Kerry offers condolences to Serbian PM over officials killed in Libya after US air strike

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint news conference with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Amman on February 21, 2016.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry offered his condolences to Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic over two abducted Serbian officials believed to have been killed in a US air strike in Libya, Belgrade said on Monday.

The US targeted a possible DAESH camp near the Libyan coastal city of Sabratha on Friday, killing at least 49 people, including a DAESH group operative the US said was responsible for the mass murder of tourists on a Tunisian beach.

Belgrade said that the strike’s victims also included two Serbian embassy staff members, Sladjana Stankovic and Jovica Stepic, who had been abducted in Libya in November.

However, the Pentagon stated on Saturday it had “no information” showing that the attack caused to the deaths of two Serbians and that the circumstances of their deaths “remained unclear.”

Serbian government said in a statement that Kerry "expressed condolences to Vucic and the families over the death of Sladjana Stankovic and Jovica Stepic," in a telephone conversation on Monday.

Kerry "told the prime minister that he would inform the Serbian government... about all the details of an investigation conducted by the US and its services, about the murder of Serbian diplomats," it said.

Vucic said on the weekend that the two "would have been released, had they not been killed."

A view shows damage at the scene after an airstrike by US warplanes against DAESH in Sabratha, Libya on February 19, 2016. (Reuters)

US officials announced that the strike likely killed Noureddine Chouchane, also known as “Sabir”, who along with other terrorists was planning attacks against American and other Western interests.

Chouchane is suspected of being behind the beach attack in July 2015 near the Tunisian city of Sousse that killed 38 tourists, including 30 Britons, and an attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis that killed 21 tourists and a policeman on March 2015.

DAESH terrorist group claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Sabratha, located 70 kilometres (42 miles) west of Tripoli, is considered as a stronghold for terrorists trained in camps before carrying out deadly attacks in other countries.

Libya was dragged into chaos after longtime Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi was ousted and killed in October 2011, with two governments vying for power and armed groups battling to control vast energy resources.

Belgrade maintains an embassy in Tripoli, and Serbian citizens, mostly doctors, other medical staff and construction workers, have been working in Libya for decades due to close bilateral relations during Kadhafi's regime.

TRTWorld and agencies