Middle East

Gunmen kidnap Libya deputy foreign minister

Members of the Libyan pro-government forces, backed by locals, gather on a tank outside the Central Bank, near Benghazi port, January 21, 2015. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

AL-BAIDA, Libya: Gunmen kidnapped a Libyan deputy foreign minister from his hotel room Sunday in the eastern city of Al-Baida where the recognized government is based, a ministry official said.

The kidnappers told staff they were members of the security forces when they entered the hotel before dawn, the official said, citing witnesses.

They drove deputy minister Hassan al-Saghir off to an unknown destination.

No group immediately claimed his abduction but Libya has been rocked by a spate of kidnappings of both foreigners and Libyans since the overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

The oil-rich North African nation is awash with weapons and has two rival governments and powerful militias battling for territory.

The internationally recognized government has been based in the remote east since an Islamist-backed militia alliance seized the capital last August.

Al-Baida lies 1,200 kilometers from Tripoli. The government established its headquarters in the city after intially taking refuge in the towns of Tobruk and Shohat further east.





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