Pentagon denies US killed kidnapped Serbian diplomats in Libya

Pentagon denies US killed kidnapped Serbian diplomats in Libya
2 min read
25 February, 2016
The US military has said two kidnapped Serbian diplomats were not killed in an airstrike on Islamic State group targets in Libya.
The US air strike on the Libyian city of Sabratha killed over 40 people

The Pentagon has denied claims that it killed two kidnapped Serbian diplomats in an airstrike on Libya last week.

"Thus far, we have not found any credible information that indicates these people were killed in this airstrike," said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis on Wednesday.

The statement comes in response to claims from Belgrade that Sladjana Stankovic and Jovica Stepic, two Serbian diplomats kidnapped in November, were among the 40 or so dead from a February 19 airstrike near the city of Sabratha.

Davis cited the fact that none of the locals at the scene had reported the presence of any westerners after the raid. Furthermore, "the state of the remains was not consistent with having been killed in an airstrike of this magnitude and intensity", Davis added.

On February 20, a day after the attack, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic slammed what he called the "terrible collateral damage" that had been inflicted, linking the deaths of the diplomats directly to the US military operation.

The prime minister's words were coupled with a claim from Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic that efforts to release the hostages had been close to succeeding.

"I believe we had been close to the solution for them to be freed. Unfortunately, as a consequence of the attack against Isis in Libya, the two of them lost their lives," Dacic said, according to the Associated Press.

Whilst the US defence department continues its investigation into the impact of the air raid, it is still not known for certain whether the Tunisian IS militant Noureddine Chouchane was killed in the strike.

Chouchane was targeted by the US for his alleged involvement in two attacks in Tunisia last year, when 23 people were killed in Tunis' Bardo Museum and a further 38 were massacred at the seaside resort of Sousse.