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Jordan's ambassador to Libya kidnapped by gunmen

Source: Reuters - Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:30 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Ambassador taken from his car, driver shot but survived

* Jordan's PM says identity of kidnappers unknown

* Kidnappings of foreign diplomats commonplace in Libya

* No one has claimed responsibility-foreign min spokesman (Adds comment from Libyan foreign ministry)

By Feras Bosalum and Suleiman Al-Khalidi

TRIPOLI/AMMAN, April 15 (Reuters) - Jordan's ambassador to Libya was kidnapped in Tripoli on Tuesday by masked gunmen who attacked his car and shot his driver, Libya's Foreign Ministry said, the latest assault on a foreign official as Libya struggles to establish the rule of law.

The driver survived the attack and was in hospital, Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Laswad said, adding that the ministry had not received any demands from the abductors.

"The foreign ministry has nothing it can confirm regarding the reasons why His Excellency was kidnapped ... no one has declared responsibility," he told Reuters in his Tripoli office.

Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour told lawmakers in parliament that the ambassador, Fawaz al-Itan, had been abducted from his car as he was leaving his house but that the identity of the perpetrators was unknown.

"The Jordanian government holds the kidnapping party responsible for the safety of the ambassador and will take all necessary measures to protect his life and release him," Ensour said, without elaborating.

Kidnappings have become commonplace in Libya and abductors frequently target foreign officials. Since the start of this year alone, five Egyptian diplomats, a Tunisian diplomat and a South Korean trade official have been abducted.

The weak interim government has been unable to disarm former rebels and Islamist militants who fought in the uprising that deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and who have formed increasingly powerful and violent militias.

Parliament has deep divisions that further undermine Tripoli's authority. Last week, Libya's interim prime minister resigned after just one month into the job, saying gunmen had tried to attack his family.

Local officials, policemen and army personnel are also targeted. There has been a rise in assassinations and attacks over the last year, along with some random acts of violence against ordinary foreigners.

In December, an American teacher was shot dead in Benghazi and in January, a British man and a New Zealand woman were shot execution-style on a beach in the west.

Tribal groups, militias and even local citizens frequently resort to road blockades and, more seriously, to shutting down the OPEC member's vital oil facilities as a negotiating tactic.

Most of the country's oilfields and some major ports have been completely shut down for nine months by federalists in the east seeking greater autonomy. In the west, various different groups have also blocked oil installations on-and-off during the same period, demanding more minority rights or calling for changes to electoral laws. (Writing by Julia Payne; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Susan Fenton)

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