MANILA >> The Philippine government said Tuesday that four Filipino nurses reported to have been kidnapped from a Libyan hospital by militants from an Islamic State group affiliate were actually taken to a safe place by a friend and were not abducted.
The Philippine Embassy in Tripoli got in touch with one of the nurses, who said they were all safe, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.
An official of a militia battling the Islamic State group affiliate had reported the kidnappings in the Libyan city of Sirte on Monday.
Jose, however, said "a local friend who was concerned for their safety" had actually taken the nurses from their accommodation to a "safer place."
"Our embassy in Tripoli verified this information and the four Filipinos were not actually kidnapped," Jose told reporters. "They were actually taken from their accommodation to a safer place, and our charge d’affaires from our embassy has actually talked to one of them and they said they are safe."
An official from the 166 Battalion, which is battling the Islamic State group affiliate, had said the kidnappings took place Monday afternoon at Sirte’s main hospital, Ibn Sina. He said his battalion helped evacuate the remaining foreign medical crew in the hospital to the Libyan city of Misrata, where the battalion is based.
There was no word about the fate of seven Filipino oil field workers kidnapped recently in Libya, Jose said, adding that the Philippine Embassy was still trying to determine their whereabouts. No group has claimed responsibility for the abductions and the workers’ employers have not received any ransom demand, he said.
The Philippines, one of the world’s largest labor exporters, has banned the deployment of workers to Libya due to the escalating violence in the country. About 4,000 Filipino workers and dependents have remained in Libya despite a government offer to repatriate them, Jose said.
Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.