Serbian premier confirms two nationals killed in US strike in Libya

Two Serbian embassy workers who had been kidnapped by extremists in Libya were killed in a US airstrike on an alleged Islamic State training camp in the country, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Saturday.

"What our [intelligence] service could say with certainty is that our citizens in Libya perished in an airstrike of American forces," Vucic told a press conference. "The US bombed positions of the Islamic State."

The two embassy staffers, telegraphist Sladjana Stankovic and driver Jovica Stepic, were kidnapped in an ambush on a diplomatic motorcade in Sabrata, western Libya, on November 8.

Vucic identified Ahmed Abashi, "a man closely cooperating with [Islamic State] for a huge profit," as the "most responsible" for the kidnapping of the Serbians.

Vucic said he was asking the United States whether they were aware that the Serbians were in the camp ahead of the strike. "So far we received an informal response from the CIA, but I'm waiting for a formal answer," he said.

Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said earlier that Belgrade will seek clarification of the incident from Washington.

The US, however, said it had "no information indicating that their deaths were a result of the strike that US forces conducted" against Islamic State in Libya.

"Our forces watched this training camp for weeks leading up to the operation, and at the time of the strike there were no indications of any civilians present," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.

Cook said that while the circumstances of the Serbian deaths remained unclear, the US offered its condolences and would share whatever information it could with the Serbian government.

A security official in Tripoli told dpa that the coffins of the Serbian nationals had been flown out of the country.

The two were in the same convoy as the Serbian ambassador last year, driving to Tunisia, when they were stopped by unknown gunmen at the beach resort of Talil near Sabrata.

While the rest managed to escape, the two Serbians and their Libyan driver were abducted. The driver was released shortly after.

The US Defence Department said that strike in Sabrata on Friday killed 40 people and targeted a senior member of the Islamic State, who was a key suspect in the Bardo Museum attack in Tunis, Tunisia, last year, which killed more than 20 people, including tourists.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25
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