U.K. Says British Hostage Freed by Militants in Libya

David Bolam's release comes days after aid worker Alan Henning was killed by Islamic State group.

William James
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burnt car sits among rubble after fighting between Libyan special forces and ex-rebel fighters of the Benghazi Shura Council in the eastern city of Benghazi July 30, 2014.Credit: Reuters
William James

REUTERS - A British man who had been held hostage by militants in Libya has been released, the British Foreign Office said on Sunday.

David Bolam was freed days after the killing of a British hostage, aid worker Alan Henning, by Islamic State militants fighting in Iraq and Syria - the latest in a series of such executions that have been filmed and posted online.

The Foreign Office gave no further details of who had held Bolam or how he had been released.

"We are glad that David Bolam is safe and well after his ordeal, and that he has been reunited with his family," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said. "We have been supporting his family since he was taken."

British media reported he had been taken hostage in May and had in August featured in a video posted online in which he pleaded for his life.

The BBC reported that his release was secured through the payment of a ransom, facilitated by local political factions in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where he worked as a teacher.

It cited no sources and the Foreign Office, which does not support the payment of ransoms, declined to comment on the BBC report.

Libya is being racked by violence as the armed groups that helped to topple Muammar Gadhafi in 2011 turn their guns on each other in a struggle for the country's vast oil resources and political domination.

Benghazi chaos

Details of who had kidnapped the British man were not clear, and local Libyan officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment on the release.

Benghazi is the base to several Islamist militant groups, including those Washington blames for the attack on the U.S. consulate in the city in 2012, during which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

Since the fall of Gadhafi, Libya's fragile government has struggled to control powerful armed factions who fought together in the 2011 revolt, but now battle each other and challenge the state for control of the post-war spoils.

Unlike than a broad movement formed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that has executed four foreign hostages, in Libya armed groups are highly fractured, often forming loose alliances for specific objectives. In the chaos, foreigners, even diplomats, have been targeted by militia groups.

Kidnappings are often for short-term ransom gain or one off political motives, such as the spate of brief abductions of diplomats from Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, to pressure their governments to free Libyan militants jailed those countries.

At the end of last year, gunmen shot dead an American chemistry teacher working at an international school in Benghazi. A month later, a British man and a woman from New Zealand were killed execution-style as they picnicked on a lonely beach in western Libya.

For months, Benghazi has also been caught up in a battle between two Islamists militant groups who joined forces to drive out the regular special forces and irregular units led by an anti-Islamist renegade general Khalifa Haftar.