CHINGFORD: Aid worker kidnapped in Libya
AN AID worker has smuggled a desperate message to the Guardian after he and five other British citizens were kidnapped in Libya.
In a text sent this morning, Tauqir Sharif, of Warwick Road in Chingford, said the vessel bound for Gaza had been seized in the Libyan port of Derna at around 12.30am this morning UK time.
It is unclear who has taken the boat, although the seizure is believed to be linked to a financial dispute.
The boat was last seen sailing out to sea and is reportedly heading for Greece.
The Foreign Office says it has begun diplomacy to try and get the group returned unharmed.
Mr Sharif said: “We have been kidnapped at sea – this isn’t a joke.
“I’m hiding my phone to get word out…we’ve been hijacked.”
The convoy set off several weeks ago as part of the ‘Road to Hope’ campaign.
It has reportedly been at the Libyan border with Egypt for over two weeks awaiting entry to Gaza.
Six UK nationals including Mr Sharif are thought to be on-board, along with three Libyans – including two port authority policemen and the manager of Derna Port, Colonel Salahuddin Rashin.
Two Irish citizens, a Moroccan and an Algerian are also said to be on board.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “We are aware of the incident at Derna Port in Libya, and have been in close contact with the Convoy organisers.
“Our Embassy in Tripoli has been urging the Libyan authorities to resolve the situation rapidly and ensure that those caught on the ship are returned to safety.”
Campaigners back in the UK say the people responsible for the alleged kidnapping are thought to be of Ukrainian and Greek origin.
Ellie Merton, chair of the Waltham Forest Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “We think the ship is several miles out to sea in the Med now. They’ve been making slow but steady headway.
“We’ve no idea what [the hostage takers] are up to.
“They’ve set out to to sea with the back door open – it’s criminally stupid. We all remember Zeebrugge.
“I just feel physically sick that something will happen to the international aid workers and the Libyan officials who are hostage on that boat.”
Mr Sharif, 23, was on board another convey of boats bound for Gaza back in May when they were seized by Israeli troops in the Mediterranean sea.
Nine people, including friends of Mr Sharif, were killed in the raid.
The Libyan Navy has reportedly sent four ships and is tracking the ship in open waters – but no force has been used.
Two fighter jets have also been deployed, according to campaigners from ‘Road to Hope’.
They have also claimed that the captain of the ship has said he intends on proceeding to Greece where he will drop off the hostages.