US air strikes kill two Serbian embassy staff in Libya

US air strikes targeting suspected DAESH camps in Libya kill two abducted Serbian embassy staff members

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

View of damage at the scene of an air strike by US warplanes against DAESH in Sabratha, Libya, in photot taken February 19, 2016.

US air strikes are believed to have killed two Serbian embassy staff members, abducted in Libya in November, in a raid against a possible DAESH camp on Friday, Serbia’s Foreign Ministry has said.

Sladjana Stankovic and Jovica Stepic, a communications officer and a driver respectively, were taken hostage on November 8 after their diplomatic convoy - including the Serbian ambassador - came under fire near the coastal city of Sabratha in close proximity to the Tunisian border.

"We are expecting identification of the victims, so formally we cannot confirm the information," Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told a press conference.

At least 49 people were killed when US warplanes launched air strikes against the suspected camp in western Libya on Friday.

US officials said the campsite was used by up to 60 militants including Tunisian Noureddine Chouchane, blamed for two attacks on tourists in Tunisia last year that left dozens dead.

Libyan authorities had sent photos of the bodies to Serbian diplomats for identification, mayor of Sabratha Hussain al-Thawadi said.

An attorney general said a survivor allegedly told prosecutors that they were DAESH affiliates but al-Thawadi was wrong in claiming it was a camp, as it was "just a house."

"The house was used for meetings and other acts but not training," he said.

Serbian Minister Dacic said the government had been negotiating for the release of the two staff prior to the attack and that "the kidnappers had a financial interest."

Serbia will send a protest note to Washington due to the US not informing Serbian authorities of the raid.

Militant groups frequently target diplomats and foreign nationals, mostly to ransom for money or the release of other fighters held by opposing forces.

Serbia has ties with both the self-declared Libyan government based in the eastern town of Tobruk as well as the authorities in the capital Tripoli.

TRTWorld, Reuters