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Turkish nationals held in Libya for almost two years re-united with families

(From L-R) Dogan Kıssa, Halil Gozel, Nurettin Calik, Ilker Saglik and Ahmet Selvi. Turkish citizens, who were detained for nearly 2 years in Libya, are seen after they were rescued by Turkey and Qatar on 21 November 2021 [Evrim Aydın/Anadolu Agency]
(From L-R) Dogan Kıssa, Halil Gozel, Nurettin Calik, Ilker Saglik and Ahmet Selvi. Turkish citizens, who were detained for nearly 2 years in Libya, are seen after they were rescued by Turkey and Qatar on 21 November 2021 [Evrim Aydın/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish nationals who had been held captive by a Libyan warlord for nearly two years, were re-united with their families on Monday, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Nurettin Calik, one of the seven rescued citizens, embraced his family in the Kahramanmaras, a province in south-eastern Turkey, after his release from eastern Libya where he was held illegally by the forces of renegade General Khalifa Haftar.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Calik expressed his happiness at seeing his family for the first time in months: "I'm happy as if I was newly born."

Recounting his detention before being brought back safely to Turkey on Sunday, thanks to joint efforts of authorities, he said he had been "slandered" and accused of "spying."

"There they detained (me) for being a citizen of the Republic of Turkey. They accused me of spying and slandered me. They tortured me quite a lot for two years," he said, thanking the Turkish government for his and the other captives' rescue.

'We knew our country is strong'

Halil Gozel is another Turkish citizen rescued from eastern Libya and reunited with his family in the southern province Adana.

Gozel told reporters in front of his home that he was very happy to be back in Turkey.

"They accused us of espionage because we were Turkish," he said, adding that after they were kept in one prison for six months, Haftar's forces then transferred them to another detention facility with one of its militia units.

READ: The surreal scene in Libya

"We stayed in a cell here for 20 days under poor conditions. We were waiting to be rescued at any moment. Yes, our conditions were bad, but we expected to be saved because we knew that our country is strong."

Gozel said that, since there was "no government there to deal with," the prison was under the control of Haftar's forces. "They were making arrests without any legal basis … They were oppressing not just Turks, but even their own citizens," he added.

Now happily at home with his family, Gozel said they, in the last two months of their captivity, had been waiting for the day they would be rescued "because we'd heard that our state was working at the highest level to rescue us."

"We were in poor condition, but they wouldn't dare to kill us because if they touched a hair on our head, Turkey would've wiped that place off the map, and they knew it."

The seven Turkish citizens, who had been held in eastern Libya for almost two years, were safely brought back to Turkey on Sunday, thanks to joint efforts of authorities, Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Turkey's Embassy in Tripoli and its National Intelligence Organization closely monitored the issue and cooperated with the concerned bodies to ensure the safe return of the country's citizens, it added.

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The Ministry also hailed the governments of Libya and Qatar for their help in the Turkish citizens' release.

Libya's civil war, which continued since the ouster and killing of strongman, Muammar Al-Qaddafi, in 2011, was exacerbated in 2019 when warlord Khalifa Haftar carried out a military onslaught to topple the Tripoli-based internationally recognised government for control of the North African country.

In April 2019, Haftar, who commanded forces loyal to a rival government based in eastern Libya, launched a wide-ranging campaign to take the capital, but his forces failed to achieve their primary goal, although they captured several strategic towns and cities in the vicinity.

In March this year, an elected transitional authority comprising of a unity government and a presidential council assumed its duties to lead the country to elections.

Amid efforts for Libya to move forward, putschist leader, Haftar, is still acting independently of the legitimate government and leads an armed militia that controls many areas. He calls himself the "commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army," contesting the presidential council's powers.

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