Al-Qaeda planning kidnap of Brits in Libya

Hostages shown on Algerian TV. Picture: Reuters
Hostages shown on Algerian TV. Picture: Reuters
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AL-QAEDA is plotting to kidnap German and British citizens in Libya, a respected Germany magazine reported yesteday.

Britain and Germany were among several western countries to urge their nationals to leave the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Thursday, days after a deadly attack by Islamist militants in neighbouring Algeria.

The government cited a “specific and imminent” threat to westerners in Libya’s second largest city, but officials declined to give any details.

Yesterday, the Foreign Office also called for all British citizens in Somaliland to leave the country immediately, warning of a “specific threat” to foreigners .

The warnings came after at least 38 hostages were killed in an Islamist militant attack on Algeria’s In Amenas gas complex near the Libyan border, along with the start of French military operations against jihadi rebels in Mali.

Spiegel, citing sources in the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), reported yesterday that al-Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups were specifically preparing attacks on British and German citizens in the area.

Few westerners are believed to be in Benghazi, which has experienced a wave of violence against diplomats as well as military and police officers, including an attack in September that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.

The report came as the Foreign Office said Britons should leave Somalia’s breakaway enclave of Somaliland immediately. It gave no details of the threat, but highlighted in a statement the ongoing danger of “kidnapping for financial or political gain, motivated by criminality or terrorism”.

“We are now aware of a specific threat to westerners in Somaliland, and urge any British nationals who remain there against our advice to leave immediately,” the statement said.

Prime Minister David Cameron spoke this month of a growing militant threat in North Africa, describing it as a “magnet for jihadists”.

Britain already advises against all travel to Somalia and Somaliland, due to the “high threat from terrorism” and 

Somalia has suffered two decades of civil war that deepened poverty and lawlessness and led to a rise in piracy in the busy shipping lanes off its coast.

There have been threats against foreigners in Somalia since US forces killed al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in 2011, the Foreign Office says. Islamist militants have attacked overseas workers in the past and they continue to pose a risk.

A Foreign Office spokesman said there were relatively few Britons working in Somalia, mainly charity workers and diplomats. However, there is a larger number of Britons with a Somalia background who visit relatives in the region.

Britain has one of the oldest and largest Somali communities in Europe, with an estimated population of up to 100,000.

The Foreign Office, citing security reasons, said it would not release more details about the threat or comment on the source of their information.