Jordan’s ambassador to Libya was abducted by armed assailants Tuesday while heading to his Tripoli office, the latest official taken hostage in the unstable North African country.
Masked kidnappers opened fire on the vehicle in which Ambassador Fawaz Itan was a passenger, wounding the driver, said Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Nsour in a briefing to members of the lower house of parliament.
The driver was hospitalized, according to Jordan’s official Petra news agency.
The identity of the abductors and their motive have yet to be officially confirmed. Reuters news agency quoted Essam Baitelmel, a member of the team investigating the abduction, as saying the kidnappers wanted Islamist Libyan militant Mohamed Dersi to be released from a Jordanian prison in return for the envoy’s freedom.
Dersi has been serving a life sentence since 2007 for plotting to bomb the main airport in Jordan.
In January, gunmen briefly held five Egyptian diplomats after the arrest of Libyan militia leader Shabaan Hadia in Egypt. They were released after Egypt freed Hadia.
Kidnappings have surged in Libya since an eight-month civil war in the oil-rich country put an end to the autocratic rule of Moammar Gadhafi, who was beaten to death in October 2011.
Attacks on Libyan officials and their families also are common. The son of Libyan interim Prime Minister Abdullah Thinni was kidnapped by a militia, which held him for four months, releasing him in January.
On Sunday, Thinni said he would resign after an additional “cowardly attack” by a militia on him and his family. Thinni was installed as interim premier only last month after his predecessor, Ali Zeidan, was dismissed by parliament, which was upset by chronic insecurity in the country.
Thinni, who will step down when parliament names a successor, promised full cooperation of state security agencies to secure Itan’s freedom, calling it a top priority.
Nsour, for his part, emphasized that Jordanian authorities will take all the appropriate measures to protect Itan’s life and ensure his release.
Tarek, a reporter from Cairo, is a visiting journalist at the Times sponsored by the Daniel Pearl Foundation in partnership with the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships.