* Ambassador taken from his car, driver shot but survived
* Identity of the kidnappers still unknown
* Kidnappers demand release of Libyan prisoner in Jordan
* Abductions of diplomats becoming commonplace in Libya
(Adds comment from Libya's foreign minister)
By Feras Bosalum and Suleiman Al-Khalidi
TRIPOLI/AMMAN, April 15 Jordan's ambassador to
Libya was kidnapped on Tuesday by gunmen who demanded an
Islamist militant be released from a Jordanian jail in exchange
for the diplomat's freedom.
The masked gunmen shot and wounded the driver of Ambassador
Fawaz al-Itan's car as they snatched the diplomat from a street
in the capital Tripoli, Libya's Foreign Ministry said.
Essam Baitelmel, a member of the Libyan team investigating
the abduction, said the kidnappers had demanded the release of
Mohamed Dersi, a Libyan Islamist militant jailed for life in
2007 for plotting to blow up the main airport in Jordan.
The kidnappers made their demands in a call to the
ambassador's own cellphone, which was left behind in the car
after the abduction, Baitelmel said. They said the diplomat was
Libya's foreign minister Mohamed Abdelaziz could not
officially confirm that the government had received demands from
Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour told parliament the
government would take "all necessary measures to protect his
life and release him".
But agreeing to the kidnappers' demand could set a dangerous
precedent for Jordan which is an important U.S. ally in the
fight against al Qaeda.
"Jordan has currently locked up some of the top global al
Qaeda scholars and jihadists like Mohammad al Makdisi and Abu
Qatada. A deal over Dersi may encourage other jihadists to
follow suit, so, very tricky," a senior Jordanian intelligence
official told Reuters.
By Tuesday evening, the Libyan government was still not
sure who the perpetrators were, if it was a small number of
individuals or a larger group.
"We're trying to understand what the group's conditions
are...we have not yet received a formal demand," Adbelaziz said.
"Some months ago, we made an advance to the Jordanian
government to transfer the prisoner (Dersi) here. But we don't
know if this is possible yet."
Royal Jordanian Airlines suspended flights to
Tripoli after the kidnapping.
Kidnappings have become commonplace in Libya, with foreign
officials often the targets. Since the start of the year, 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.
Last week, Libya's interim prime minister resigned after
just one month into the job, saying gunmen had tried to attack
Local officials, policemen and army personnel are also
targeted there have been some random acts of violence against
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 and a month later, seven
Egyptian Christians were found dead in a similar manner in the
Tribal groups, militias and even local citizens resort to
road blockades and, more seriously, to shutting down the OPEC
member's vital oil facilities as a negotiating tactic.
Most of the oilfields and some major ports have been
completely shut for nine months by groups in the east seeking
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 Robin Pomeroy)