Jordanian envoy freed and home-bound after kidnapping in Libya

Ambassador's release comes shortly after Jordan released Libyan jihadist, but officials deny a link between two events

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 3:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 3:32pm

The Jordanian ambassador to Libya who was kidnapped in Tripoli last month has been freed, state television in the North African country said today.

Fawaz Aitan was already on his way back to his homeland following his release, the television station cited Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, as saying.

“The ambassador is doing well and he is now making his way back to his country,” Judeh was quoted as saying, without explaining the circumstances of his release.

The Libyan government has only said it established indirect contact with the abductors, without giving any more details.

The kingdom’s Information Minister Mohammad al-Momani said Aitan was in good health and was returning home on a military plane.

Masked gunmen had kidnapped Aitan in mid-April as he was going to work in Tripoli, near the Jordanian embassy, on April 15. Assailants opened fire on his car, wounded his driver and then forced him out at gunpoint.

The incident was one of the latest targeting Libyan leaders and foreign diplomats in the increasingly lawless country, three years after Nato-backed rebels ended autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule.

There has been no claim of responsibility for Aitan’s abduction.

But sources in Tripoli said the kidnappers had demanded the release of a Mohammed al-Dursi, alias Mohammed al-Noss, a Libyan jihadist who has been detained in Jordan for more than seven years over his alleged involvement in planning an attack on Amman’s airport.

A week after the ambassador’s abduction, Jordan released al-Dursi, and transferred him to Libya. Al-Dursi was arrested and convicted in 2007 of trying to carry out a suicide bombing at Queen Alia International Airport.

Jordanian officials at the time would not say whether the Libyan detainee’s release was connected to Aitan’s abduction.

An employee and a diplomat of the Tunisian embassy in Libya were also abducted in Tripoli, on March 21 and April 17 respectively. According to Tunis, their captors demanded the release of two Libyans held for “terrorism” in Tunisia.

The kidnappings in Libya reflect the weakness of the country’s 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 following Gaddafi’s ouster came to depend on them to restore order in the absence of a strong police force or military.