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Pinoy beheaded in Libya: Manila

MANILA, July 21, (Agencies): Suspected militiamen have beheaded a Philippine worker in Libya after singling him out because he was not a Muslim, the Philippine Foreign Department said Monday.

Department spokes-man Charles Jose said this reinforced the government’s order to all Filipinos to evacuate the country because of the worsening security situation.

He told reporters the Filipino construction worker was kidnapped on July 15 and his beheaded remains were found in a hospital on July 20.

“The vehicle he was riding in was stopped in a checkpoint. There were three of them — a Libyan, a Pakistani and a Filipino — and he was allegedly singled out because he was non-Muslim,” said Jose.

The kidnappers had initially negotiated with the Filipino’s company for a $160,000 ransom but eventually “they received a call from the abductors on July 20 (that) referred them to a Benghazi hospital”, he added.

The beheaded body was found in the hospital in an advanced state of decomposition, indicating he may have been dead even while the negotiations were going on, Jose added.

He indicated that the killing prompted the Philippines on Sunday to order its estimated 13,000 nationals in Libya to leave.

“The threats to our Filipinos’ safety and security became more imminent. We would like to get them out of harm’s way because of this incident,” Jose added.

Filipinos can leave Libya by travelling by land to either Tunisia or Egypt, he added.

So far 207 Filipinos have registered for evacuation and will be brought back to Manila as soon as the Philippine embassy there completes their travel requirements, he said.

About 10 million Filipinos live and work abroad, many of them in the Middle East, in search of better-paying jobs. This has often placed them in delicate situations when violence breaks out in these countries.

On Saturday the foreign department ordered the 100 Filipinos living in Gaza to leave the besieged Palestinian territory as Israel presses its offensive.

Meanwhile, clashes between rival Libyan militias fighting for control of the international airport in the capital, Tripoli, have killed 47 people over the last week, Libya’s Health Ministry said.

The ministry said on its website late Sunday that the fighting also left 120 people wounded. It also said it had not yet received the full casualty report.

The weeklong battle over the airport is being waged by a powerful militia from the western city of Zintan, which controls the facility, and Islamist-led militias, including fighters from Misrata, east of Tripoli. The clashes resumed Sunday after cease-fire efforts failed.

Television footage broadcast Sunday showed a mortar shell striking a Libyan Arab Airlines plane and a column of black smoke billowing from inside the airport, which has been closed since last Monday.

Libya is witnessing one of its worst spasms of violence since the ouster of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The rival militias, made up largely of former rebels, have forced a weeklong closure of gas stations and government offices.

In recent days, armed men have attacked vehicles carrying money from the Central Bank to local banks, forcing their closure. The Central Bank had said banks would reopen Sunday, but then remained closed as the fighting resumed.

Libyan government officials and activists have increasingly been targeted in the violence. Unknown gunmen kidnapped two lawmakers in the western suburbs of Tripoli on Sunday, a parliament statement said, and urged the government to intervene to free them.

Last Thursday, a female lawmaker in a liberal-leaning political bloc in the outgoing parliament, Fareha al-Barqawi, was killed in the eastern city of Darna. The motives behind the killing were not known, but such targeted killings rampant in Libya over the past two years have been blamed on the militias, which successive governments have struggled to control.

In the past two days in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, gunmen killed an army officer while he was driving home in his car, and a former special forces officer was shot dead in the downtown Salmani district.

The UN Support Mission in Libya said last week it was temporarily withdrawing its staff because of the deteriorating security situation.

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