TRIPOLI, March 29: At least two British activists with a humanitarian convoy destined for the Gaza Strip were subjected to a brutal gang-rape by five men in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, the Libyan deputy prime minister said.

The two women of Pakistani origin were brutally raped in front of their father, Awadh al-Barassi said on his Facebook page, condemning “a horrible act”.

Mr Barassi said he had been to see the victims in Benghazi on Thursday, and that the family was “in a very bad psychological state.”

The women, accompanied by their father on the convoy organised by Turkish NGO IHH, had been destined for the Palestinian coastal enclave blockaded by Israel when it was blocked from leaving Libya and entering Egypt.

The three decided to return to Benghazi accompanied by two more Britons, with the aim of getting a flight home. But when they arrived in Libya’s second largest city they were abducted by five unidentified men.

A Western diplomatic source speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed that the group had been abducted, but was unable to confirm that the women had been sexually assaulted, pending medical reports.

The source also said there had been arrests in the case, without specifying how many.

Another source said the family was now being looked after at the Turkish consulate in Benghazi.

The Associated Press quoted Mr Barassi as saying that pro-government militiamen were suspected of having raped three women activists of Pakistani origin.

Mr Barassi told Libya al-Hurra TV late on Thursday that the women were in very bad shape. Two of the women were sisters and their father witnessed the rape of the women, he said.

Their overland convoy left Britain on Feb 25, but was stuck for days along the Libyan-Egyptian border after Egyptian border guards refused to let them to cross.

Their 10-vehicle convoy carrying medical supplies was named “Mavi Marmara” in honour of a ship involved in a 2010 deadly flotilla incident, according to Huseyin Oruc of the IHH, a Turkish humanitarian relief organisation.

The IHH was the group that helped organise the international flotilla that was attacked on May 31, 2010. Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara while stopping the flotilla that was trying to breach an Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed, and dozens of activists and seven Israeli soldiers were wounded.

The IHH mediated the release of the kidnapped women and men after they were contacted by the convoy’s organisers and pled for help. The man and his daughters were scheduled to return to Britain on Friday, he said.

He said the women were attacked and robbed, and that their abductors included a taxi driver and a group of men in military uniforms.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry condemned the attack and said that Pakistani embassy in Libya had lodged a strong protest with Libyan authorities.

“A heinous crime has been committed against these female activists,” he said, adding that he hoped stern action would be taken against the attackers.

Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement that it was aware of an incident involving British nationals who were part of an aid convoy.

The office said the government was providing consular assistance to the victims, but it did not elaborate.—Agencies



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