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2 arrested in kidnapping of activists

CAIRO — Libyan security officials said Friday that they had arrested two men in the kidnapping this week in eastern Libya of five British humanitarian activists, at least two of them women who had been sexually assaulted.

Siraj Alden al-Sheikhi, an official of the security directorate in Benghazi, Libya, would not comment on the suspects’ identities, but he said the authorities were close to arresting a third man in the attack.

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The attack on the activists, who had been traveling with a convoy that was taking aid to Gaza, underscored Libya’s persistent instability as the government struggles to extend its control over the country and to rein in fighters who participated in the revolt against Moammar Khadafy more than two years ago.

Libyan defense official Abdul Salam Bargathi told the BBC that the two arrested Friday were Libyan soldiers. The episode was an ‘‘individual, isolated attack,’’ Bargathi said. A Western diplomat said the activists had been traveling, without visas, with an aid convoy that had started in London and had journeyed by land through several North African countries, bound for Gaza.

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