Two employees of the Serbian Embassy to Libya kidnapped in Sabratha in early November were most probably killed in US air raids on an Islamic State base in that city, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said at an extraordinary press conference on Saturday.
Serbia expects the Libyan authorities to officially confirm today the deaths of Sladjana Stankovic and Jovica Stepic, but Dacic said that based on photos and intelligence data, it was established that the two were among those killed.
After the abduction on November 8, during an attack on a motorcade in which was also Serbian Ambassador Oliver Potezica, Serbia considered the possibility of closing the embassy but scrapped it.
News of the deaths of the two embassy staffers was reported by Belgrade's electronic media, citing "Libya Herald" daily. Pentagon confirmed the air strikes, saying the target was an Islamic State camp in Sabratha.
Serbia will request an explanation from US and Libyan authorities of how the tragedy occurred and insist on establishing who was responsible, Dacic said, adding that nobody had notified Serbia about the air strikes and that Washington had not contacted Belgrade about the incident.
A protest note will be sent to Washington. The deaths of the two Serbs in Libya was discussed at the US Embassy in Belgrade earlier today.
According to Belgrade media, US authorities said in a report that about 49 people were killed in an Islamic State training camp in Sabratha, but no mention was made of foreign nationals.
According to Ivan Todorov of the Serbian Security and Information Agency, Serbian intelligence services and their partner agencies knew the location of the kidnapped Serbs and the group who abducted them, but local authorities were waiting for "the right time for serious action." "According to our information, it's a criminal group with links to Islamic State. US authorities said it was a training camp. All this information should be checked out," he said.
According to Dacic's explanation, the information on the location was obtained "in cooperation with foreign services, including American ones," so the question is whether there was a "communication error." He said Serbia was waiting for official forensic results to establish if the two Serbs were killed in the air strikes or in another way.
"Had there been no bombing, there would have been no such outcome. The kidnappers weren't interested in killing them. Their motive for strictly financial. We didn't comply but continued to negotiate," he said, adding that the kidnappers demanded ransom from the victims' families, that Serbian intelligence services had information about that, and that there were indications that the case could be solved soon.