NZ woman 'executed' on beach

LIAM HYSLOP AND GHAITH SHENNIB
Last updated 09:00 04/01/2014

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A woman from New Zealand and a British man who both worked for an oilfield maintenance firm were killed execution-style with shots to the head as they picnicked on a lonely beach in western Libya, a security official says.

The two bodies were found on Thursday (local time) in the Mellitah area, some 100 km (60 miles) west of Tripoli, near a large oil and gas complex co-owned by Italy's ENI and a residential complex, security sources said.

Libya's security situation has deteriorated in recent months as the government struggles to rein in militias and tribesmen who helped to overthrow Moammar Gaddafi in 2011 and kept their guns.

Few foreign companies outside the oil sector still operate in Libya, and those that do rely heavily on local staff. Others have moved expatriates to gated compounds and restricted their movements, especially at night.

Giving the first details of the incident, the security official said the Briton, born in 1965, and the New Zealander, born in 1967, had been found lying face down on the beach with gunshot wounds to their heads.

"It doesn't look like a robbery because there was no break-in at their Toyota car parked nearby. It was left untouched until we came," said the official, declining to be named.

"We found the bullets," he said, adding that the two people appeared to have been picnicking on the shore.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) spokesman confirmed a New Zealander visiting Libya had been killed near the city of Sabratha.

"The New Zealander was normally resident in New Zealand and had been visiting Libya.

"The family of the New Zealander have requested privacy and asked that no further details be released publicly," the spokesman said.

The exact circumstance of their deaths was not yet clear and would be subject to an investigation by the Libyan authorities, the spokesman said.

"We are working closely with British consular staff who have travelled from Tripoli to Sabratha," the spokesman said.

"We are in contact with the next of kin and providing consular assistance."

There were currently five New Zealanders registered with the ministry as being in Libya, the spokesman said.

The ministry's travel advisory categorised most of Libya as extreme risk, due to the significant threat from terrorism and kidnapping. It advised against all travel.

MAINTENANCE FIRM

Both the victims worked for Blue Energy, an oilfield maintenance firm, and had been driving to Mellitah in a Tripoli-registered car, the official said.

Britain's Foreign Office urged Libya to "continue to do all it can to bring to justice the perpetrators of this appalling crime, as it strives to build strong rule of law in Libya".

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In a separate incident, authorities released two Americans detained by the army in the violent eastern city of Benghazi, the men's basketball club said.

The men, contracted to play for the Al-Hilal club, had been detained on the campus of Benghazi university and taken to the army's headquarters, Libyan security officials said on Thursday, without giving any details.

"They were released last night," said Salah al-Fetouri, president of the club.

He said the army, which mans checkpoints and patrols in the city, had been suspicious of the men because they were out at night in a campus normally closed to non-students.

"After their identity had been confirmed they were released," he said. One of the pair is of Cameroonian origin.

These days few foreigners live in Benghazi, a city in the oil-rich east where assassinations and car bombings are regular occurrences.

- Stuff, Reuters

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