Masked gunmen have kidnapped Jordan's ambassador to Libya. The perpetrators have demanded the release of a Libyan Islamist militant from prison in Jordan.
Libyan authorities scrambled on Tuesday to identify the armed assailants behind the kidnapping of Jordan's ambassador, the latest in a string of attacks against foreign diplomats in the lawless North African nation.
"We're trying to understand what the group's conditions are..," said Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz. "We have not yet received a formal demand."
Ambassador Fawaz al-Itan was on his way to work in Tripoli on Tuesday morning, when his car was intercepted by masked gunmen. The assailants shot and wounded the Moroccan driver and abducted the ambassador.
The gunmen reportedly left a message on the ambassador's cell phone, which was left behind in his car, in which they demanded the release of Mohamed Dersi. A Libyan Islamist militant, Dersi was sentenced to life in prison for a 2007 plot to blow up Jordan's main airport.
In an address to the Jordanian parliament, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said that Amman would take "all necessary measures" to protect the ambassador's life and secure his release.
A senior Jordanian intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency that releasing Dersi from prison could set a dangerous precedent.
"Jordan has currently locked up some of the top global al Qaeda scholars and jihadists like Mohammad al Makdisi and Abu Qatada," the official said. "A deal over Dersi may encourage other jihadists to follow suit, so, very tricky."
Attacks against foreign diplomats have become a regular occurrence in Libya. Five Egyptian diplomats, a Tunisian diplomat and South Korean trade official have been kidnapped since the beginning of the year.
Last October, two protesters were killed after they attacked the Russian embassy. A car bomb attack wounded two guards outside of the French embassy in April of 2013.
In September of 2012, Islamist militants laid siege to a US consular office in the eastern city of Benghazi, killing US Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
On Sunday, Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani resigned his post after his family came under attack by Islamist militants. He had assumed the position only a week prior, taking over from Ali Zidan, who had been sacked for failing to bring the country's security situation under control.
Militants also blocked oil ports in eastern Libya for more than eight months. The blockade was lifted a little over a week ago.
Libya, flush with weapons and militias, has been gripped by lawlessness since the 2011 overthrew and execution of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi at the hands of NATO-backed rebels.
slk/jm (AFP, Reuters)