BEIRUT

Middle East

Top cop kidnapped in Libya's Benghazi

This file photo taken on Sept. 12, 2012 shows a burnt building inside the U..S compound in Benghazi following an overnight attack on the building. AFP PHOTO/FILES

BENGHAZI, Libya: The acting head of the criminal investigations department in Libya's second city Benghazi has been kidnapped at gunpoint, officials told AFP on Thursday.

"Abdelsalam al-Mahdawi was kidnapped late Wednesday when travelling from his farm to the criminal investigations department," a security official told AFP.

"Bearded men stopped him at a traffic light on Venezia Street and kidnapped him at gunpoint," the official said on condition of anonymity, recalling that the police chief had been abducted before.

He said he believed hardline Islamists were behind the kidnapping.

Another colleague said that Mahdawi "had many enemies since he had files on everyone -- Kadhafi loyalists, hardline Islamists and common criminals."

A small number of demonstrators -- most of them fellow officers in civilian clothes -- gathered in front of the city's landmark Tibesti Hotel overnight calling for his release, an AFP photographer reported.

On Thursday, Interior Minister Ashour Shwayel expressed his regret over the kidnapping and promised to "search for the officer and determine the identity of the perpetrators."

Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 revolt that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi, has witnessed a string of attacks against police stations and military officers.

It has also become a focus for jihadist groups, including militants who killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in a September 11 attack on the US consulate.

 

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