April 30, 2011 / 4:45 PM / 9 years ago

Red Cross flies home five Libyans released by rebels

* Rebels release five Libyans it says were Gaddafi soldiers

* ICRC says they were civilians who it flew home to Tripoli

GENEVA, April 30 (Reuters) - Rebels freed five Libyans on Saturday, who they said were soldiers loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which said the five were civilians, flew them home to Tripoli.

Libyan rebels in Benghazi announced the move on Wednesday, saying their release was a goodwill gesture aimed at boosting their credibility internationally. [ID:nBAB761728]

“To the best of our knowledge these five were not members of the Libyan armed forces. As far as we are concerned, they are civilians,” ICRC spokeswoman Anna Nelson told Reuters.

“They are Libyan civilians who were arrested by the armed opposition and visited by the ICRC in the framework of the detention visits carried out in Benghazi,” she said. “They were met by their families in Tripoli and able to go home with them.”

The neutral humanitarian agency, which said it had visited more than 200 detainees in the rebels’ custody over the past two months, renewed its appeal to be able to visit prisoners held by Libyan government forces.

“We hope that the ICRC in Tripoli will soon be able to start visiting detainees in the western part of the country,” said Samuel Emonet, in charge of its detainee-welfare activities in Libya.

The Geneva-based ICRC shares its confidential findings on the treatment of prisoners and their conditions of detention only with detaining authorities, in exchange for access to prisoners caught up in conflicts worldwide.

“The ICRC stands ready to continue acting as a neutral intermediary between the National Transitional Council and the Libyan government to provide humanitarian services such as transferring released detainees and delivering emergency aid for civilians across frontlines,” it said in a statement. (Editing by Louise Ireland)

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