PHL seeks assistance of Iraq, Libya on kidnapped Filipinos

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THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has sought assistance from authorities in Iraq and Libya following the separate kidnapping incidents of five Filipinos in the two countries.

“The Department, through our embassies in Baghdad and Tripoli, has been informed that five of our kababayan have been taken by armed men in Iraq and Libya on Friday,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said in a statement on Sunday.

“We are in touch with authorities in Iraq and Libya and have requested their assistance in locating and securing the release of our missing kababayan,” he added.

According to the DFA, the Philippine Embassy in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad initially reported that two Filipino women were taken by unidentified armed men along a highway in Uzem District in Iraq last Friday.

The embassy’s Charge d’Affaires Julius D. Torres said the women were on their way to Baghdad from Kurdistan when their vehicle was stopped by the armed men. He also said reports indicated that the two Filipinos managed to escape and were now in police custody.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli reported that three Filipino technicians were among the four foreign workers taken by armed men in a waterworks construction site 500 kilometers away from Tripoli last Friday morning. Four Libyan nationals were kidnapped as well. In a Reuters report on Saturday, the other foreign worker was identified as a Korean national.

The embassy’s Charge d’Affaires Mardomel D. Melicor said the armed group later released one of the foreign workers and all the Libyans.

According to Reuters reports, the number of attacks and kidnappings by Islamic State militants in areas in Iraq where the Filipinos were kidnapped increased over the past weeks. Risks on foreign workers were also high in Libya as well due to the presence of various armed groups, including Islamist militants linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, especially in remote desert areas. — Camille A. Aguinaldo