TRIPOLI, Libya — Masked gunmen abducted the Jordanian ambassador in the Libyan capital early Tuesday, officials said, the latest in a wave of abductions in the North African nation still plagued by lawlessness more than two years after the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Assailants in two cars opened fire on Ambassador Fawaz al-Etan’s vehicle in central Tripoli near the Jordanian Embassy, wounding his driver before forcing the diplomat out at gunpoint, said Libyan Foreign Ministry spokesman Said al-Aswad.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it is closely following the case and will “exert all effort to ensure safety of the ambassador.” It also called on the kidnappers to release him, and urged Libyans to “respect the diplomatic and foreign envoys in the country.”
A spokeswoman for Jordan’s Foreign Ministry, Sabah al-Rafie, confirmed the kidnapping but had no further details.
Following the kidnapping, Jordan’s national carrier, Royal Jordanian, suspended its flight to Tripoli on Tuesday, airline spokesman Basil al-Kilani said. He did not specify when flights would resume.
In Amman, the ambassador’s sister, Khawala al-Etan, told The Associated Press that she learned of her brother’s abduction when she saw his picture flash across her TV screen.
“I was shocked and started crying,” she said, adding that her brother has been subject to previous kidnapping attempts.
“He was always under threat,” she said, while appealing for her brother’s release.
Meanwhile, the motives behind the abduction were not clear, and there was no immediate word from the kidnappers.
Abductions have been rife in Libya since the country’s 8-month civil war ended with Gadhafi’s killing in October 2011. Diplomats and journalists have been among those targeted in the kidnappings.
In January, gunmen briefly held six Egyptian diplomats and embassy employees following the arrest of a Libyan militia leader in Egypt. The diplomats were released only after Egypt freed the detained militia commander.
Most of the abductions, however, have targeted Libyan officials, including senior members of the government, and their families.
On Sunday, Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, declined a parliamentary mandate to form a new government, saying he would step down after a new premier is named.
Al-Thinni said his decision was prompted by a recent attack against him that, in his words, endangered the lives of residents of his neighborhood. Al-Thinni, who previously served as the country’s defense minister, did not provide any details of the attack, but he said he did not want to be the cause of any fighting or bloodshed because of his position.
Al-Thinni’s son was kidnapped and held by a militia for four months until his release in January.
And last year, former Prime Minister Ali Zidan was briefly abducted from his five-star hotel in central Tripoli by an Islamic militia group before he was released by another rival armed group.
Also, the current powerful head of the Libyan Parliament, Nouri Abu Sahmein, appeared last month in a leaked video in which he is seen to be begging with an Islamic militia commander, trying to explain why he was caught with two women in his residence and insisting nothing scandalous was going on.
The incidents reflect the weakness of Libyan politicians and officials in the face of powerful militias that have become both the enforcers of the law and the fuel of lawlessness after successive governments depended on them to restore order in the absence of a strong police force or military.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.