In the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, ISIS kidnapped 20 foreign doctors and nurses on Monday afternoon as they were waiting for a bus to take them to Tripoli. According to reports from various Arab media, the hostages are mostly Filipinos, but among them there are also Indians, Serbs and Ukrainians.
The medical personnel were trying to escape the violence between radical jihadists and troops belonging to Operation Shuruq, which is expected to escalate in the coming days. Operation Shuruq is tied to the General National Congress in Tripoli, which is not recognized by the international community.
The hostages, who worked at the hospital Ibn Sina, were seized by a band of some thirty militants from the Tafkiri group, affiliated to the Islamic Caliphate. According to reports, the guerrillas captured them to take care of their wounded, also with a view to upcoming battles.
The medical staff were part of a larger exodus of people trying to get out of Sirte before violence intensifies. According to the local website “al Wasat,” dozens of families fled from Sirte on Monday after two days of clashes between Islamic State militants and fighters loyal to the self-declared Tripoli government.
Families packed into cars and headed west toward the city of Misrata, stronghold of the Libya Dawn armed group that backs the Tripoli government. In Sirte, gasoline is scarce and many shops are now closed.
Last week, gunmen allegedly associated with ISIS captured nine foreigners and beheaded eight Libyan guards when they raided an oil field in central Libya.
According to reports, the forces of the General National Congress of Tripoli are ready to attack Sirte to take control of the stations now in the hands of the Islamic state. The forces of the Brigade 166 militia along with those of Operation Shuruq are grouping in the Qardabiya airbase east of Sirte.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.