Five Egyptian diplomats kidnapped in Tripoli in retaliation for Egypt's arrest of a Libyan militia chief have pleaded for their government to free him to secure their release.
Gunman snatched four diplomatic staff, including the cultural attaché, from their homes in the Libyan capital on Saturday after kidnapping another on Friday, forcing Cairo to evacuate its embassy and its Benghazi consulate.
The kidnappings of so many diplomats underlined Libya's persistent chaos two years after Muammar Gaddafi's fall, with heavily armed former rebels and Islamist militants who fought in the uprising still challenging state authority.
Calling themselves Libyan revolutionaries, the kidnappers contacted the Al Arabiya television channel to demand the release within 24 hours of Libyan militia chief Shaban Hadia, and put one of the captive diplomats on the line. "The kidnappers have demands and we ask these demands are met and the defendant Abu Hadia be released," a man called Shirbini from the Egyptian cultural centre told the channel.
"We won't free the diplomats unless the sheikh is freed within 24 hours," one kidnapper said.
Hadia is a commander in the Islamist-leaning Operations Room for Libya Revolutionaries, one of the many militias which fought Gaddafi in the Nato-backed uprising, but have since refused to disarm.