Seven Iranian aid workers abducted in Libya

BENGHAZI, LIBYA Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:14pm EDT

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BENGHAZI, LIBYA (Reuters) - Seven Iranian aid workers were abducted on Tuesday by an unknown armed group in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, in the biggest operation of its kind against foreigners since the start of a revolt that toppled long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

The seven men, from an Iranian Red Crescent relief mission, were snatched from their vehicle in the heart of Benghazi on their way back to their hotel, security sources told Reuters.

The security sources said an investigation was underway to identify the kidnappers.

The Libyan Red Crescent Association confirmed the incident and said the seven had arrived in Benghazi on Monday as official guests to help with relief work in the city. It urged the kidnappers to release them.

"The Libyan Red Crescent Association urges the group ... to release (the abductees) in recognition of the Iranian Red Crescent Association's support and assistance to the February 17 Revolution and in consideration for all (aid) organizations that stood by us," it said in a statement, referring to the date that marked the start of the popular rebellion against Gaddafi.

The statement said the seven Iranians had been seized from a Libyan Red Crescent vehicle after leaving the Libyan Red Crescent offices en route to their hotel. Their driver, a Libyan volunteer, was not kidnapped.

Earlier this month, the president of Libya's Olympic Committee was freed a week after he was taken from his car by gunmen in Tripoli.

(Reporting by Mohammed al-Tommy in Benghazi and Ali Shuaib in Tripoli; Writing by Souhail Karam; Editing by Peter Graff)

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