BEIRUT

Middle East

Two Italian workers kidnapped in eastern Libya

Soldiers attend a graduation ceremony for recruits of the Libyan army in Tripoli January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

TRIPOLI, Libya: Two Italian construction workers have been abducted in an Islamist stronghold in eastern Libya, a security source said on Saturday.

The men were kidnapped in Derna, east of Benghazi, where they had been staying in a cement factory, the security source said.

"There was a group of Libyan construction workers waiting for them on the highway east of Derna to fix a hole in the road, but the Italians did not arrive," the source said. "We are trying to establish the identity of the kidnappers, to find out about their demands."

Derna is a stronghold of radical Islamists in the east of Libya, an OPEC oil producer struggling with turmoil two-and-a-half years after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

The government and its nascent army is struggling to control the militias, tribesmen and Islamists who helped topple Gaddafi but refuse to disarm and trust the political process to meet their demands.

Benghazi, the main city in the east, has been rocked by a wave of assassinations of army and police officers as well as car bombs. Most Western nationals left the city after the U.S. ambassador was killed during an Islamist assault on the U.S. consulate there in September 2012.

 

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