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2 Serbian embassy employees abducted in Libya

Belgrade has not yet received any information from the kidnappers
A militia alliance overran Tripoli in August 2014, establishing a rival government and forced the internationally recognised administration to flee (AFP)

Two Serbian embassy employees, a man and a woman, were abducted in Libya's coastal city of Sabratha on Sunday while they travelled in a convoy to Tunisia, Serbia’s government said.

Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said the convoy was carrying Serbia's ambassador to Libya in a separate car during the incident. The city is located about 100km from the main border crossing between Libya and Tunisia.

"Some shots were fired, one Libyan citizen was wounded in a leg, according to first reports," Dacic told the national RTS broadcaster.

"We have no information about who the kidnappers are. Nobody has contacted us to demand anything. We are following the situation," he said, adding that the government established a crisis committee.

Reuters quoted an unamed Serbian government official in Belgrade, who said, "It appears it was an ambush, a shooting."

Dacic said he had alerted the Serbian prime minister about the missing employees.

A ministry statement identified the abducted pair as Sladjana Stankovic, in charge of embassy communications, and Jovica Stepic, a driver.

"The attackers first provoked an accident, hitting the embassy car from the back, so when the driver got out to see what had happened, they literally dragged him into one of their cars," Ambassador Oliver Potezica told Serbian state news agency Tanjug.

The masked attackers then asked Stankovic to get out and into their car before speeding off, Potezica said, adding that one attacker had opened fire on a Libyan citizen in the convoy and hit him in the leg.

Sabratha is considered a bastion for religious hardliners in lawless Libya, which has become a magnet for radical militants.

A commander in the Sabratha Military Council, a militia alliance that controls Tripoli, told AFP "all security branches are on full alert in the city since the Serbians were abducted".

"There are checkpoints everywhere, and we are looking for them. We have also alerted neighbouring cities and areas and asked them to set up new checkpoints," he said.

"We think that they are still in Sabratha anyway."

Libya descended into chaos after the October 2011 ouster and killing of longtime dictator Muammer Gaddafi, with two governments vying for power and armed groups battling to control its vast energy resources.

A militia alliance overran Tripoli in August 2014, establishing a rival government and parliament that forced the internationally recognised administration to flee to the country's remote east.

Belgrade maintains an embassy in Tripoli and Serbian citizens, mostly doctors and other medical staff as well as construction workers, have been working in Libya for decades due to close bilateral relations during Gaddafi's regime. 

The Serbian foreign ministry statement said it was doing "everything possible, in a difficult situation on the ground, to get more information and ensure the return of our citizens".

It added that Dacic had spoken with his Libyan counterpart about the abductions, although it was unclear whether it was the foreign minister of the Tripoli-based administration or of its rival in eastern Libya.

Sabratha is on the edge of a region known as "Jefara", which analysts say is home to formerly nomadic tribes that make a living from smuggling and trafficking.

In June, after a Tunisian student armed with an assault rifle mowed down 38 tourists at a beach resort in his country, Tunisia's secretary of state for security said the shooter had been trained in Sabratha.

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