Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Libya: Jordanian Envoy, Security Detail Kidnapped in Tripoli, Abductions, Shootings of Foreigners

According to CNN and Reuters, the kidnappers who abducted Jordan's Ambassador Fawaz al-Aytan and members of his security detail earlier today (April 15) were abducted in Central Tripoli, the capital.

Libya's state news agency LANA cited that the ambassador's Moroccan driver was shot and left injured following the strangely peculiar mass hostage taking. 

COMMENT: A spokesman for the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said masked gunmen in two vehicles ambushed the ambassador's convoy and whisked away al-Aytan and his security detail.

A diplomatic source said the motive appeared to be to exchange Ambassador Fawaz al-Aytan  for the release of a Libyan from a Jordanian prison.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Amman said the kidnappers had not contacted his government, but he held them responsible for the safety of the ambassador.

"Through our permanent mission in New York, we have asked the UN Security Council to issue a statement condemning this unacceptable act that targeted Jordan and its diplomatic representation in Libya," Judeh said.

In a related development, the US Embassy in Tripoli said on April 15, that one of its locally hired employees was abducted. Later, a senior Obama Administration official said the woman, who worked for the embassy as a bodyguard, had been located.

After the Jordanian ambassador was abducted, Jordan's national airlines, Royal Jordanian, canceled its daily flight to Tripoli. Royal Jordanian runs 10 flights a week to Tripoli, four to Benghazi and two to Misrata.

On Sunday, Libya's newly appointed Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni stepped down after he and his family were attacked. 

Al-Thinni said he and Cabinet members will continue their work as a caretaker government until a new PM is chosen by the General National Congress, the country's interim Parliament.

In October 2013, the country's former PM, Ali Zeidan, was kidnapped briefly by a militia in the capital.

Thus far, Egyptian diplomats, a South Korean official and a Tunisian Embassy employee have been kidnapped and later released in Tripoli.

Diplomatic missions have been targeted in attacks both in Tripoli and Libya's second city Benghazi, leading all Western countries to close their Benghazi consulates.

On September 11, 2012, US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other US citizens were killed in an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.

Government forces have been unable to rein in the hundreds of militia groups, which have competing interests, ideologies and agendas.

Essam Baitelmel, a member of the Libyan team investigating the abduction, said they had demanded the release of Mohamed Dersi and said the diplomat was not harmed and is in good health.

Baitelmel said they still do not know the identity of the kidnappers, who had  called on the ambassador's phone, which he had left in the limo.

Unless foreign nationals possess a work visa as residents in Libya, foreign travel for tourism should be avoided, given the large number of abductions and shooting deaths of  foreign citizens.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.