Libyans arrested in sexual assault of British aid workers in Benghazi


The flag of Libya's National Transitional Council flies outside United Nations headquarters September 19, 2011 in New York.


Stan Honda

Four Libyans have been arrested over claims they sexually assaulted three British aid workers in Benghazi earlier this week.

The three women — two of whom are sisters — were with an aid convoy that passed through Libya on its way to Gaza. They were part of a group of five people who were briefly kidnapped near Benghazi in the early hours of Tuesday morning and were released hours later.

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The group is currently safe in the Turkish consul in Benghazi and is waiting to return to the UK.

An army official in Libya said the arrested men were former members of security forces who had been dismissed from their jobs several months ago.

The women and the rest of their convoy had started their trip in Morocco and were refused permission to cross the Egyptian border. The group of five then took a taxi to Benghazi in hopes of catching a flight back to the UK but, when they were stopped at a checkpoint, they were kidnapped and the women were allegedly sexually assaulted. The two sisters' father is thought to have witnessed the assault.

Abdul Barghathi, commander of preventative security in the Libyan defense ministry, said the women had been sexually assaulted, but not raped.

"There was no rape, just touching [sexual assault]," he said.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of an incident in Libya involving a number of British nationals who were part of an aid convoy. We are providing consular assistance."