Gunmen have abducted dozens of Tunisians in the western part of Libya to request the release of a Libyan arrested in Tunisia, authorities and family reported on Thursday.
Libya has been in the middle of chaos, as two rival governments struggle for control of power. Armed groups have in the past repeatedly kidnapped foreign nationals and diplomats to demand the release of captured Libyans overseas.
Tunisia’s foreign ministry has confirmed the abduction of the Tunisians and said it was in contact with the Libyan authorities to secure and rescue its nationals in the neighbouring country. No details was provided by the ministry about a detained Libyan suspect.
Yosra Boubaker, the daughter of one of the detained Tunisians told local television that "Gunmen kidnapped my father since Sunday, they want the release of a Libyan arrested in Tunisia."
Mustapha Abd El Kebir, a Tunisian human right activist with contacts in Libya, said as many as 50 Tunisians were being kidnapped in Washafana, in west of Tripoli and the site of current disputes between rival armed factions.
Earlier this year, an armed group attacked the Tunisian consulate in Tripoli where 10 staff were kidnapped before they were released. The Tunisian consulate was closed down after the kidnapping.
Militant groups in Libya often act with impunity due to the security vacuum.
After former strongman Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and subsequently killed in October 2011, Libya has fallen into chaos and has not built a national army yet.
Brigades of rebels have been put on the state pay roll as security forces. But they often remain more loyal to their cities or regions, and have steadily once again turned against one another and allied with rival political forces in a battle for control, Reuters reported.
The country is currently divided between the control of two rival parliaments, the GNC in the capital Tripoli and the House of Representatives, operating from the eastern city of Tobruk, each backed by their own militias for power as well as a number of groups fighting for control of its main resource wealth.