Tehran has demanded the immediate release of a seven member delegation of the Iranian Red Crescent, who were kidnapped at gunpoint in Benghazi by a group of Islamic extremists.
The seven aid workers had arrived in Libya on Monday at the invitation of the Libyan Red Crescent, to discuss co-operation over humanitarian aid issues. The team was abducted by armed gunmen in the eastern city of Benghazi, home of the uprising which led to the downfall of the Gaddafi regime.
According to Naharnet the men are most probably being detained by Salafists who fear that the Iranians may have intended to promote Shiite Islam, an anathema to the Sunni sect which holds particularly sway in eastern Libya.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Parliamentary and Consular Affairs Hassan Qashqavi said the Islamic Republic is pursuing the release of the delegation. The Tehran Times quoted Qashqavi saying "We have instructed our country’s embassy in Libya to pursue the issue as immediately as possible. We hope that the release of these people will be obtained through the follow-up of the Iranian embassy and the cooperation of Libyan officials."
Press TV reported Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of the men. The human rights organization released a statement saying "The seven Iranian Red Crescent members must be allowed to go free. In the meantime, the armed militiamen holding them must immediately grant them contact with the outside world and ensure their safety.”
An Iranian security official has stated the group are being treated well and have not suffered any abuse.