AMID tensions in the region, four Filipinos together with five other foreigners were abducted in an attack on a Libyan oil field last week, the Philippine government confirmed on Monday, March 9.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose verified that four Filipinos were among the foreigners abducted in the March 6 attack on the Austrian-owned Al-Ghani oil field in southern Libya.
Eight guards were beheaded in the attack and a personnel of the oil field who saw the incident reportedly died from a heart attack.
Jose said Manila’s embassy in Tripoli reported the abduction of the Filipinos but was not able to identify the kidnappers.
“We know that they were not injured when they were transported away from the al-Ghani oil field,” the DFA reported.
He further said that the oil field had been closed for two weeks when the incident happened. Unfortunately, four Filipinos were present at the place when the unknown group attacked the oil field.
“Hindi nating alam kung sino may hawak sa kanila. Sa Libya ang sitwasyon, maraming armed groups na naglalaban-laban hindi mo alam sino responsible (We don’t know who abducted them. The situation is in Libya, there are several armed groups fighting against each other, you can’t identify which one is responsible),” Jose reiterated.
Libyan authorities fear this might be another attack of Islamic State militants whose long-term goal is to take over Libya’s petroleum industry.
“This is the lifeline of Libyan people,” Libya military spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari said, refusing to give more details on how that army knew the details about the beheadings.
Austria’s foreign ministry also believes that they captives are “in the hands of IS terrorists.” The ministry, however, said there were “no signs to indicate whether they are dead or alive.”
Together with the four Filipinos abducted are an Austrian, a Czech citizen, a Bangladeshi, and a Ghana national while the other one remains unidentified.
The series attacks of groups in Libya bring the total number of Filipinos missing in the said country to seven. In a separate incident, three Filipinos were kidnapped in another oil field on Feb. 3 with no further information on their whereabouts up to this day.
“These underscore the escalating threat to the safety and security of Filipino oil workers in Libyan oil fields which have been targeted by armed groups in recent weeks,” Jose said.
Earlier, DFA declared Alert level 4 on Libya, which means a total deployment ban and mandatory repatriation for all Filipinos.
“Although mandatory, it is still their personal decision. We can’t force them to physically [leave],” the DFA spokesman said, adding that the overseas Filipino workers fear they might lose their jobs and not be able to stand on their knees once they go back to the Philippines.
“In view of this worsening situation, we appeal once again to the estimated 4,000 plus Filipinos who are still in Libya to get in touch with our embassy in Tripoli,” Jose said.
Despite OFWs not following the DFA’s invitation for repatriation, the agency continues to urge every Filipino in the war-torn country to leave and start over.
“The DFA and the Embassy in Tripoli urge all remaining Filipinos in Libya to note the succeeding repatriation schedules and register for repatriation immediately. OFWs may contact the Embassy Team in Tripoli at +218927471949, +2189161555264, and +218916656134,” the foreign affairs department said in its press release.
“The embassy will continue to closely monitor the condition of Filipinos in Libya and encourage those who remain there to avail themselves of the Philippine Government’s repatriation offer as soon as possible,” it added.
(With reports from Inquirer.net, ABS-CBNNews.com, InterAksyon.com)
(LA Midweek March 11-13, 2015 Sec. A pg.1)