Czech foreign minister says hostages from Libyan oil field most likely in the hands of militants responsible for mass execution of Egyptian Copts

Lubomir Zaorálek, photo: Filip Jandourek

The fate of nine foreign workers, among them one Czech national, who were kidnapped by terrorists in an attack on an oil-field in Libya last Friday, remains at the center of media attention. The Czech foreign minister admitted on Monday that the situation was exceptionally serious and that with high probability the group was in the hands of the brutal militant group responsible for the recent execution of 21 Egyptian Copts.

Lubomir Zaorálek, photo: Filip Jandourek
After hours of waiting and speculation, the Czech Foreign Ministry on Monday night confirmed that the group of abducted foreign workers had fallen into the hands of Islamic State militants, moreover according to information from Czech and foreign intelligence services, it appears almost certain that the militants in question are the same group of radicals who publicly executed 21 Egyptian Copts just a fortnight ago.

In an interview for Czech Television Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaorálek said he did not want to raise false hopes and admitted to feeling “a sense of helplessness” despite the fact that everything possible was being done to try to secure the hostages’ release.

“The situation is very bad. It now seems almost certain that the militants group in question is the same group responsible for the brutal execution of 21 Egyptian Cops a fortnight ago.”

The foreign minister said that he was in close contact with his Austrian and Filipino counterparts but that in view of the fragmented and highly chaotic situation in Libya efforts to save the hostages cannot be directed through official channels and are wholly in the hands of the respective countries’ intelligence services. The Czech Republic has members of both the civilian and military intelligence services on the ground in Libya and the country has sent two envoys to the region who are reportedly operating from the Egyptian and Tunisian areas bordering on Libya. Foreign Minister Zaorálek again:

“It is up to them to judge how far they can go. They both have contacts in the country and from what we know they have started making use of them.”

Illustrative photo: Czech Television
So far no one has contacted the Czech authorities with any kind of demand and according to intelligence experts the people involved in this operation –both from Czech and foreign intelligence services - are now racing against time, using their contacts to reach various group and tribal leaders in the country in an effort to glean more information and possibly find a mediator for negotiations. What is against them is the fragmented state of the country, the mistrust of many of these groups and the total unpredictability of radical groups such as the one which is believed to be holding the foreign hostages.

More information has also emerged on the Czech national who was abducted with the group. According to the daily Mladá fronta Dnes, the man, identified as Pavel H., is from the Vysočina region in Moravia. The 50-year-old Czech cook, a father of three, was employed as catering coordinator for the VAOS oilfield services for which he had worked since 2009. He is reported to have returned to the country repeatedly for work purposes and most recently visited his family at home just a few days ago.

Another Czech who worked for the company at the time of the attack is reported to have returned home safely via Egypt. The Foreign Ministry says it has managed to contact all Czech citizens working in the country with the exception of one who is located in a remote region. All have been advised to return home and the ministry has warned all Czech nationals against travelling to Libya.