BEIRUT — An additional 15 migrants who set sail from Lebanon and were held hostage in Libya by a militant group for several days have been released, Lebanese lawyer Mohammad Sablouh told L'Orient-Le Jour.
The group, mainly comprised of Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian nationals, set sail from Abde in Lebanon's Akkar region and were captured on Aug. 18th in Maltese territorial waters. Libya's Tarek Ben Ziyad militia (TBZ) took the 110 migrants, including 37 children, hostage in Misrata, northwest Libya, before transferring them to a detention center in Benghazi.
Eighty of them were released by the militia on Friday. A group of approximately 15 migrants were released yesterday, according to Sablouh - who regularly represents endangered migrants and is closely following this case.
"The remaining fifteen are in Libyan jails," he added.
'No ransom paid'
The militia, affiliated with the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, reportedly demanded an initial ransom of $2,000 to $3,000 per person.
"Initially, the militants demanded a significant ransom. But, given the media attention the incident garnered, they released the hostages without any compensation," said Sablouh. "Among those still in prison, some are accused of being the boat captains and leading the journey."
"The others engaged in fights and altercations with the militants," Sablouh continued. He further explained that the majority of the 110 migrants who embarked on the journey are Syrians, and all of them are still in Libya, even those who have been released.
"They are in Benghazi, taken in by families of Lebanese residing in that city," he explained.
Opponents of the Syrian regime
Sablouh previously indicated that the group of migrants contains 37 children, 14 women, and 59 men.
"The issue is that some migrants are opponents of the Syrian regime. They have no interest in being repatriated to Syria," the lawyer added. It's not clear what will happen to the released migrants.
"None of the authorities — Lebanese, Syrian, or Palestinian — have requested the repatriation of the migrants," said Sablouh.
Amnesty International previously accused TBZ, one of the largest and most influential factions of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces, of committing war crimes. While similar hostage-taking incidents occur regularly in the Mediterranean, this is the first time TBZ has targeted a boat of migrants coming from Lebanon.