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British Women In Aid Convoy 'Raped' In Libya

At least two British women travelling in an aid convoy have allegedly been raped after being kidnapped in Benghazi.

Libyan authorities said three women, who are thought to be of Pakistani origin, were travelling with two men on their way to the airport when they were snatched, reportedly by pro-government militiamen.

Reports vary but at least one of the women was said to have been raped and the other sexually assaulted.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Awad al Barassi, visited two of the women in hospital and said that they were in "very bad shape" following the ordeal on Tuesday.

The women had been travelling with other activists as part of an aid convoy heading towards Gaza.

One of the organisations linked to the mission negotiated with the kidnappers for the group's release.

It is understood the women were in a vehicle which was returning to Benghazi from the Egyptian border when it was stopped at a checkpoint.

The 10-vehicle convoy they had previously been travelling with had attempted to get into Egypt, having come through Europe, Algeria and Tunisia, but was stopped at the border.

Mr Barassi said the women were abducted by a taxi driver and a group of men in military uniforms, then attacked and robbed.

He said that those responsible would be brought to justice and apologised to the women and their families in an interview on Libyan TV.

The Daily Telegraph reported that two of the women were sisters, all were wearing veils and "Free Palestine" T-shirts and the sisters were travelling with their father.

The paper reported Mr Barassi as saying that the women had been "brutally raped in front of their father."

He was reported as telling Libyan TV: "Sadly [the perpetrators] belong to the army, but they don't reflect the ethics of the Libyan army.

"I visited the rape victims. They are in a very bad psychological state. They were raped in front of others, in front of their father."

Latest reports say that the men were with the 1st Infantry Unit of Benghazi and two have been arrested while another two remain at large.

Britain's Foreign Office said: "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."

Pakistani Foreign Ministry Aizaz Ahmad Chaudry said the Pakistani embassy in Libya had also lodged a strong protest with Libyan authorities about the incident.

Since the 2011 uprising that ended with the death of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has been struggling to build a unified army and police force amid increasingly powerful militias.The government depends on some of the militias to fill the security vacuum.

The attack is the latest in a series of violent assaults on aid agencies and diplomatic missions in the region that have rendered Benghazi a no-go zone for most foreigners.

In June, two British bodyguards were injured in an attack on a convoy carrying the British ambassador to Libya.

In January, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office urged Britons to leave Benghazi after it became aware of a "specific and imminent threat".

US ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered in the city in September when the American consulate was stormed by militants.