South Africa reopens office in Libya to find missing reporter

Arab World Materials 18 April 2011 18:22 (UTC +04:00)

South Africa partially reopened its diplomatic mission in Tripoli, in what the foreign minister on Monday said was an effort to find a missing reporter, DPA reported.

Photojournalist Anton Hammerl, a South African citizen, went missing on April 7 in Libya, along with three additional reporters, two of them United States citizens and one a Spanish passport holder.

South Africa's government has been under pressure from domestic and international groups to use its ties to Tripoli to obtain Hammerl's release.

Witnesses have said the three others were spotted in Libyan prisons last week, but Hammerl's whereabouts remain unknown.

"There are people on the ground who are following up leads," International Relations Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane said in Pretoria, according to the SAPA news agency.

She declined to comment further, citing fear for the reporter's safety.

Pretoria has requested US assistance in tracking down Hammerl, as Washington is trying to obtain the release of its own two citizens.

The US Embassy said it was "actively seeking information about the whereabouts of Mr Hammerl."

President Jacob Zuma headed an African Union delegation to Libya last week which sought to broker a ceasefire between the warring parties, though the deal was rejected by the rebels.

Zuma has been criticised by human rights groups for failing to raise Hammerl's case when he met Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi.

Peter Bouckaert at Human Rights Watch called it a "shocking" omission.