Italy: Families in ‘total despair’ as Libya's Haftar demands prisoner swap for captured fishermen

Families of Italian fishermen are asking international help, as seen in Mazara del Vallo, Sicily on Saturday, as their relatives are still in custody after Libyan forces seized two fishing boats from the town two weeks ago for allegedly fishing in Libyan territorial waters. 18 fishermen, including 8 Italians, were detained on September 1 and transferred to a region in eastern Libya controlled by the commander of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, who reportedly is refusing to free the fishermen until Italy releases four jailed Libyans, who were convicted of human trafficking and illegal immigration, although their family members state that the young men were themselves refugees. “For 18 days now we do not have any news from our relatives, we don't know how they are, if they eat, if they sleep, we are completely in the dark. So our cry is a cry for help to all international states so that as soon as possible they can find a solution for our sailors, to bring them straight home, because we want them back home,» said Ignazio Bonomo, son of one of the captured sailors. The owner of the Medinea boat said that families and friends are in “total despair.” According to Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio, Italy is working on the liberation the fishermen without «accepting blackmail.»

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