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Published: Sunday March 23, 2014 MYT 1:46:01 AM
Updated: Sunday March 23, 2014 MYT 1:46:47 AM

Tunisian diplomat kidnapped in Libyan capital - minister

TUNIS (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen have kidnapped a Tunisian diplomat in Tripoli, Tunisia's foreign minister said on Saturday, one of a string of diplomatic abductions in the Libyan capital this year.

Three years after Libya's revolt to topple Muammar Gaddafi, the North African country is struggling to impose security in the face of brigades of former rebels, Islamist militants and ex-fighters who refuse to disarm.

"A Tunisian diplomat was kidnapped in Tripoli, the Tunisian ambassador told me that his car was found empty," Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi told the local radio station Shems FM.

No further details about the abduction or the victim were immediately available. But the minister urged Libyan authorities to protect members of its diplomatic mission.

In January, five Egyptian diplomats were briefly kidnapped in Tripoli in what security officials said was retaliation for Egypt's arrest of a Libyan militia chief. They were later freed and Egypt released the militia commander.

A South Korean trade official was also kidnapped the same month as he left his office in Tripoli. But he was freed days later by security forces, and Libyan officials said it was not a politically motivated abduction.

Foreigners have been targeted in attacks over recent months though motives were unclear. An American teacher was shot dead in Benghazi in December and in January, a British man and a New Zealand woman were shot execution-style on a beach in western Libya.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; editing by Patrick Markey and Rosalind Russell)

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