Philippines says four citizens among nine foreigners abducted in Libya

MANILA (AFP) - Four Filipinos and five other foreigners were abducted in an attack on a Libyan oilfield last week, the Philippines government said on Monday, after an assault Libyan officials blamed on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants.

Eight guards were killed in the surprise attack on the southern oilfield of Al-Ghani on Friday, the Libyan unit tasked with protecting oil installations has said.

The Libyan National Oil Company also said at the time that two foreigners - an Austrian and a Filipino who worked for a services company - were missing after the attack.

Philippine Foreign Department spokesman Charles Jose said Manila's embassy in Tripoli reported four Filipinos and five foreigners had been snatched, including the Austrian, two Bangladeshis, a Czech national and a Ghanian. He said he could not confirm the identity of the kidnappers, and that no demands had been issued.

"These underscore the escalating threat to the safety and security of Filipino oil workers in Libyan oil fields which have been targeted by armed groups in recent weeks," he told a news conference.

A total of seven Filipinos have now been abducted in the North African state this year, Jose said, and the fate of another three seized in the Al-Mabruk oilfield early last month remains unknown.

Libya has been wracked by conflict for the past four years, with rival governments and powerful militias battling for control of key cities and the country's oil riches.

There were 13,000 Filipinos working in Libya when the Philippine government ordered mandatory repatriation in July 2014, the foreign department said.

The government and private employers have since brought many home, but about 4,000 others have remained, lured by salaries they could not expect in the Philippines.

About 10 percent of Filipinos work overseas.

"In view of this worsening situation we appeal once again to the estimated 4,000 plus Filipinos who are still in Libya to get in touch with our embassy in Tripoli," Mr Jose said.

VAOS Oil Services, an Austrian contractor for the Al-Ghani oilfield, had evacuated dozens of other Filipino workers to the Libyan capital before the attack, Mr Jose said, adding that many will now return to the Philippines.