Libyan jihadi group parades sobbing hostage, more Libya news (none of it good)

A hostage kidnapped from the Tunisian embassy in Libya was seen sobbing in a video released on Monday by a jihadist group claiming his capture.

The hostage, Mohammad ben Sheikh, is seen calling on Tunisia’s president to help rescue him from his plight as he cries the five minute video posted to social networking sites. Sheikh is being held by a largely unknown group calling themselves Shabab al-Tawhid, according to Agence France-Presse.

“Mr. President, why do you want to deprive me of life?.. There are no negotiations, they will not release me,” he says.

“Mr. President, negotiate with them. I want to return to Tunisia. They can kill me at any time.”

At the end of the video, the captors, in a message to the Tunisian government, claim: “As you imprison ours, we imprison yours. As you kill ours, we kill yours.”

Authorities in Tunis are demanding the release of Libyans sentenced for their role in a 2011 “terrorist operation” in which two police officers died…

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In other news from Libya, Jordan’s ambassador to Libya, Fawaz al-Itan, was kidnapped last Tuesday by gunmen who demanded that an Islamist militant be released from a Jordanian jail in exchange for the diplomat’s freedom. The masked gunmen shot and wounded Mr. Itan’s driver as they took the diplomat from a street in Tripoli, Libya’s Foreign Ministry said.

Essam Baitelmel, a member of the Libyan team investigating the abduction, said the kidnappers made their demands in a voice mail message on the ambassador’s own cellphone, which was left behind in the car after the abduction. Kidnappings have become much more common in Libya, with foreign officials often the targets. Since the start of the year, five Egyptian diplomats, a Tunisian diplomat and a South Korean trade official have been abducted.

Thani quit less than a week after parliament tasked him on Tuesday with forming a new cabinet, just weeks after it ousted his predecessor for failing to rein in the lawlessness gripping the North African country.

Finally, a statement posted on the Libyan government’s website on Sunday, April 14, said that interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani had handed in his resignation to the country’s parliament after gunmen had attempted to attack members of his family one day earlier.

The interim prime minister said that by stepping down he was seeking “to protect the interests of the country and so as not to drag different sides into fighting when there can be no winner.”

Al-Thani, who said he would stay on as head of the cabinet until a replacement could be found, failed to provide any details of what he described as a “cowardly attack.” A spokesman for his office told the Reuters news agency that nobody had been hurt in the incident, which he described as a “near miss” outside of the interim prime minister’s home.

Al-Thani’s decision to step down is widely regarded as being symptomatic of the turmoil the Libyan authorities have been in since the overthrow of longtime strongman, the late Moammar Gadhafi three years ago. During that time, the country’s fledgling security forces have failed to disarm and demobilize many of the militias who helped take down Gadhafi’s army.

The militia connections also extend into the parliament, making it extremely difficult to find a candidate for prime minister capable of bridging such divisions.

Al-Thani was defense minister under the previous prime minister, Ali Zidan, who himself was briefly abducted by militiamen last year. Lawmakers voted Zidan out of office last month after he failed to end a standoff with rebels occupying key ports used to export Libyan oil.

Oh, and they still haven’t exported any oil.  More on the oil ports here.

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