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Gunmen kidnap Jordan envoy to Libya

Rebels under Ibrahim Jathran, a former anti-Gadhafi rebel who seized the port and two others with thousands of his men in August, stand guard at the entrance of the Es Sider export terminal in Ras Lanuf March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

TRIPOLI: Masked gunmen kidnapped Jordan's ambassador as he travelled to work in the Libyan capital on Tuesday, shooting at his car and wounding his driver, the two countries' governments said.

It is the latest targeting of Libyan leaders and foreign diplomats in the increasingly lawless North African country, three years after NATO-backed rebels ousted autocratic leader Moamer Kadhafi.

"The Jordanian ambassador was kidnapped this morning. His convoy was attacked by a group of hooded men on board two civilian cars," Libyan foreign ministry spokesman Said Lassoued told AFP.

Security and medical officials in Tripoli said the ambassador's driver -- reportedly a Moroccan -- suffered two gunshot wounds but that his life was no longer in danger after surgery.

The government in Amman confirmed the kidnapping.

"Jordan has initial information that the Jordanian ambassador in Libya, Fawaz Aitan, was kidnapped," foreign ministry spokeswoman Sabah Rafie said, adding that Amman was investigating.

Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur called on the Libyan authorities to do their best to secure his release.

"According to the information we have, unknown masked civilians kidnapped Aitan this morning as he headed to work," he told an emergency meeting of Jordan's parliament.

"The kidnappers are responsible for the safety of Aitan and the government will do what it takes to free him," said Nsur.

"We call on the Libyan government and Libyan people to work on preserving his life and freeing him."

Diplomats in Tripoli say militias that fought to topple the Kadhafi regime often carry out kidnappings in order to blackmail other countries into releasing Libyans held in prisons abroad.

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh indicated that Jordan had yet to receive any demands from the kidnappers, whose actions he said represented a "dangerous turn."

"We realise that the security situation in Libya is very difficult. Until now we did not receive any additional information from the kidnappers," he said, quoted by the state-run Petra news agency.

National carrier Royal Jordanian said it cancelled Tuesday's scheduled flight to Tripoli following the ambassador's abduction.

"RJ is examining the situation and in touch with the Libyan authorities to take a suitable decision about operating flights to Libya," said the airline, which also operates flights to the Libyan cities of Benghazi and Misrata.

The abduction comes two days after Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani stepped down, saying he and his family had been the victims of a "traitorous" armed attack.

Thani quit less than a week after parliament tasked him with forming a new cabinet and a month after it ousted his predecessor for failing to rein in the insecurity gripping the country.

Libya has seen near daily attacks in recent months, particularly in the restive east, a challenge from rebels who blockaded vital oil terminals for nine months and a growing crisis stemming from the interim parliament's decision to extend its mandate.

With the country awash with weapons from the 2011 conflict, the authorities have struggled to establish security by integrating the anti-Kadhafi militias into the regular army or police force.

Last month, an employee at Tunisia's embassy in Tripoli was kidnapped.

And in January, gunmen kidnapped five Egyptian diplomats in the capital and held them for several hours.

Two assailants were killed in October when protesters attacked Russia's embassy in Tripoli.

That attack followed a car bomb attack on the French embassy in April which wounded two guards.

And on September 11, 2012, an attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of the 2011 revolt, killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US citizens.

That came three months after a convoy carrying the British ambassador to Libya, Dominic Asquith, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Benghazi, wounding two guards.

 

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Summary

Masked gunmen kidnapped Jordan's ambassador as he travelled to work in the Libyan capital on Tuesday, shooting at his car and wounding his driver, the two countries' governments said.

It is the latest targeting of Libyan leaders and foreign diplomats in the increasingly lawless North African country, three years after NATO-backed rebels ousted autocratic leader Moamer Kadhafi.

The abduction comes two days after Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani stepped down, saying he and his family had been the victims of a "traitorous" armed attack.

Libya has seen near daily attacks in recent months, particularly in the restive east, a challenge from rebels who blockaded vital oil terminals for nine months and a growing crisis stemming from the interim parliament's decision to extend its mandate.

That attack followed a car bomb attack on the French embassy in April which wounded two guards.


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