22 Feb 11

Bosnian Workers 'Come Under Attack' in Libya

A group of Bosnians working in the Libyan town of Benghazi came under attack on Monday night, reports said, as Balkan citizens in the African country seek to flee the growing violence.

FoNet, B92

Some of the 80 Bosnian citizens in the group were lightly wounded, the wife of one of the workers told the Sarajevo-based Federation TV over the phone.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that no one was killed in the attack, which came one day after a group of Serbian workers was attacked several hundred kilometres from Tripoli.

Reports estimate that some 1,500 citizens of Bosnia are currently in Libya, where most of them work for Bosnian construction companies Energoivest, Hidrogradnja and Sirbegovic.

A number of nurses and technicians from Sarajevo Canton work in the African country as well, and said they have seen violence in the streets of the cities where they live, Bosnian public broadcasters reported.

Meanwhile, Bosnian officials say they are working to evacuate all of the country's citizens from Libya.

"The situation is complex, but not dramatic. Our citizens are safe. The families of workers called the embassy and sent requests to be evacuated. We have formed a Crisis Committee of representatives of our companies, and we are exchanging information and monitoring the situation.

"At this time, we are trying to provide aircraft to organise the evacuation," the ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Libya, Ferhat Seta, said late Monday night.

Bosnia's Foreign Affairs Ministry says it has established contact between relevant institutions in Bosnia, its embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan embassy in Sarajevo, as well as the embassies of countries that border with Libya or are in the same region.

Other countries in the Balkans are also working to evacuate their citizens. Croatia and Serbia, which each have hundreds of citizens working in the African country, have taken steps to begin flying them back to Europe, a process that has been complicated by difficulties with internet and phone connections and restrictions on flying into the country.

The airport in the second largest Libyan city Benghazi remains closed, and there are reports that its runways have been destroyed.

Bulgaria, meanwhile, announced on Tuesday morning that a state plane had obtained permission to land in the Libyan capital in order to fly home some of the 500 Bulgarians living in the country, though it had not yet left Sofia by Tuesday afternoon.

Since the situation inside the country is dangerous and unstable, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry has advised its citizens to refrain from travelling within Libya and said that the plane should be used only by those who are in Tripoli and nearby areas.

Regarding exit visas, required by Libyan authorities for all EU citizens, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Vesela Cherneva explained that EU ambassadors have received assurances that people without such visas will be allowed to leave the country.

About half of the Bulgarians in Libya are believed to be in and near Tripoli, while the others are dispersed in cities and towns in the eastern part of the country.

Bulgaria is also preparing the country's Airbus to use for evacuation, but it is awaiting flight permission.

Zeljko Stamatovic from Montenegro's Foreign Ministry told Balkan Insight that there are between 70 and 80 Montenegrins in Libya and that the Ministry is currently working on their evacuation. The first citizens may even return today, he said, but added that it is difficult to be certain because they are in different locations and countries are having difficulty getting permission to land their aircraft in Libya.

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