Libya Olympic deputy hopes chief freed in 'next few hours'

Reuters, Tuesday 17 Jul 2012

Libya's representatives at the London Olympic Games, which begin on July 27, are due to head to the British capital in a few days

Nabil Elalem
Nabil Elalem

The Libyan Olympic Committee is hopeful for "good news in the next few hours" on the release of its president after he was taken from his car by gunmen in Tripoli on Sunday, its deputy chief said.

Nabil Elalem was with a colleague when two cars carrying men in military-style clothing blocked the road, colleagues said. The armed men are said to have told him he was needed and that he had to go with them, before speeding away.

"God willing this issue will be solved in the next few hours," Noureddin El-Krekshi, deputy chief of the committee, told Reuters on Monday.

Asked whether the committee knew Elalem's whereabouts or who his captors were, he said: "There are government bodies who are involved in the matter and they are giving us hope. We are cooperating with them."

Libya's representatives at the London Olympic Games, which begin on July 27, are due to head to the British capital in a few days. The team of about 10 athletes is set to compete in judo, swimming, athletics and weight-lifting.

"We are preparing and focusing to be able to participate in the Games," Krekshi said.

Since the end of last year's uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, the interim government has struggled to control armed groups who refuse to lay down their weapons and often take the law into their own hands and detain people.

Mustafa El-Huni, deputy chairman of the ruling National Transitional Council, said the authorities were working on securing Elalem's release.

"Hopefully we will hear good news today or tomorrow," he told a news conference on Monday with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who said he was concerned about the matter.

Elalem, a former Libyan judo champion, took charge of Libya's Olympic body after its president Mohammed Gaddafi, one of Gaddafi's sons, fled to Algeria last August.

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said the body had been in contact with the Libyan Olympic Committee. "We have expressed to them our grave concern and have offered every possible help," he said on a conference call.

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