Two staff members of the Serbian Embassy in Libya identified as Sladjana Stankovic -- a female communications officer -- and Jovica Stepic -- a male driver -- have been abducted by unknown assailants in Libya's north-western coastal city of Sabratha. They were travelling in a diplomatic convoy to Tunisia along with Serbian Ambassador to Libya, Oliver Potezica.
"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," Potezica told Serbian state news agency Tanjug. The ambassador was in the motorcade in a separate car when the incident took place.
"We have no information about who the kidnappers are. Nobody has contacted us to demand anything but we are following the situation," said Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic in a press statement on Sunday (9 November). To monitor the situation he said a crisis committee has been set up.
Meanwhile, the Sabratha Military Council, which is in-charge of the area's security has been put on high alert. With checkpoints everywhere they claim to have alerted neighbouring cities as well although they think the assailants are still holding the duo in Sabratha itself, which is situated to the west Tripoli.
It is along a coastal road where several armed factions operate, mostly allied with their local towns or regions. It is on the edge of a region known as Jefara, which is home to formerly nomadic tribes that make a living from smuggling and trafficking.
Belgrade has had close diplomatic relations with Libya as Serbians have worked in the country for decades under former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. However, post his capture and the subsequent dethroning of his government, the oil-rich North African country has been marred by chaos and infighting.
Since Gaddafi's demise, the country has been divided between two rival governments, one the internationally recognised government in Tobruk and the other in Tripoli controlled by an armed faction called Libya Dawn, which took over the capital last year and installed a self-declared government. While Serbia has diplomatic relations with the government in Tobruk, it continues to maintain an embassy in Tripoli as well.
Diplomats and foreign nationals have been targeted and kidnapped by Islamist militants in the past, mostly for ransom or to demand the release of Libyan fighters being held by overseas governments. However, western diplomats and foreign nationals left Tripoli last year, if it fell to Libya Dawn.