Skip to main content

Four suspects arrested in rape case, Libyan officials say

By Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
March 29, 2013 -- Updated 1240 GMT (2040 HKT)
New Libyan flag raised in Benghazi to celebrate the second anniversary of Nato's first military operation in Libya.
New Libyan flag raised in Benghazi to celebrate the second anniversary of Nato's first military operation in Libya.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Libyan officials say women were kidnapped while on way to airport
  • Armed men in military uniforms stopped a bus, kidnapped the women
  • Government blames "outlaws," promises swift justice
  • Four of five suspects have been arrested, authorities say

(CNN) -- Two British female activists were raped two days ago in the eastern city of Benghazi and four suspects have been arrested, Libyan officials said Thursday.

In a statement posted on his official Facebook page, Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Barassi said the women, who are sisters, were kidnapped Tuesday and raped in front of their father.

According to al-Barassi, the young women are British citizens who were born in Pakistan and were part of Turkish non-governmental organization IHH's aid convoy to the Gaza Strip.

Al-Barassi and Libya's Interior Ministry said four men involved in the incident had been arrested and security forces in Benghazi were pursuing a fifth person.

Alleged Libyan rape victim talked to CNN
Rape as a weapon of war

While al-Barassi said it was unclear whether the men were part of the "revolutionary brigades" that serve under the country's security ministries, the Interior Ministry blamed the incident on "outlaws."

The Libyan state news agency LANA, quoting security sources in Benghazi, reported that other members of the aid group also were assaulted by a different armed group and two activists who were kidnapped are still missing.

Al-Barassi said he visited the victims and met with their father at a Benghazi hospital on Thursday to apologize on behalf of the Libyan people and government for this incident. He told them it didn't represent the Libyan society and its Islamic values.

He said the family was in a "very bad psychological state."

In an interview with a Libyan TV channel, al-Barassi said the women and their father were on their way to Benghazi's Benina International Airport when they were stopped at a checkpoint nearby. The women and their father were kidnapped, and the man witnessed the rape of his daughters, he said.

The deputy prime minister said he was in touch with the British ambassador to Libya throughout the day.

"We are aware of an incident in Libya, involving a number of British nationals who were part of an aid convoy. We are providing consular assistance," a U.K. Foreign Office spokesperson told CNN.

The Interior Ministry said in a written statement that the father, along with a translator, notified police of the incident on Wednesday.

Lt. Majdi al-Erfi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the family had returned to Benghazi after the aid convoy was turned back by Egyptian authorities. He said the family was on a bus when they were stopped at an "unofficial checkpoint" by armed young men in military uniforms.

According to al-Erfi, the family was held at the checkpoint and "its members assaulted while two outlaws ... kidnapped two of the young women and took them to a farm on the outskirts of the city to carry out the crime."

The remaining members of the humanitarian aid convoy are at the Turkish consulate in Benghazi, officials said.

Al-Barassi promised the results of the investigation would be made public and said those involved would stand trial soon.

He said the young women were wearing veils and "Free Palestine" T-shirts.

Two years after the start of the revolution and a bloody civil war that overthrew Libyan dictator Moammar Qadhafi in 2011, the government is still struggling to exert its authority and control the hundreds of militias, most of which continue to operate freely across the country.

CNN's Susannah Palk contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0500 GMT (1300 HKT)
China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi, leaders of the most populous nations face similar challenges. Can they learn from each other?
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
The U.S. is not returning combat troops to Iraq, President Barack Obama insists.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0038 GMT (0838 HKT)
A man abducted alongside killed U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff tells CNN that no one from the U.S. government has tried to talk with him.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1508 GMT (2308 HKT)
Mulatu Astatke is the founding father of ethio-jazz: a fusion of Ethiopian music with western jazz.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Have you been to these? The global museum list, released Tuesday, ranks 25 of the world's best museums.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, comes with new features that you'll enjoy.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0927 GMT (1727 HKT)
Psychedelic drugs are being researched as a potential treatment for conditions ranging from anxiety to tobacco and alcohol addiction.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0142 GMT (0942 HKT)
It's a surfer's paradise -- but Diah Rahayu is out on her own when it comes to professional women's wave-riding in Bali.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT