A Ukrainian doctor and his wife have been kidnapped in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, a stronghold of Islamist militias, the Libyan health ministry said Thursday.

The ministry issued a statement denouncing the abduction as an “irresponsible act” and calling on the kidnappers to release the pair who worked at the city’s Al-Houari hospital.

It did not identify the couple nor say when they were seized, but a spokesman for Al-Houari hospital told AFP that all contact had been lost with them a week ago.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the abduction, the latest in a string of kidnappings targeting foreigners and Libyans alike in the restive city.

Libya has been rocked by political instability and lawlessness since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi

Benghazi, the second city of the oil-rich North African country, has been a hotbed of unrest and a bastion of Islamist militias who fought in the revolt.

In May renegade general Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive against Islamists in the city, including the jihadist Ansar al-Sharia group classified a terrorist organisation by the United States and Libya.

There has been almost daily fighting between Haftar’s forces and the militias, which now control nearly all of Benghazi, the cradle of the 2011 uprising.

The latest abduction comes after the Libyan authorities warned against the “total collapse” of the country’s health sector, which depends mostly on foreigners for staff.

In July, during fierce fighting between rival militias in Tripoli that prompted an exodus of expatriates, gunmen kidnapped and raped a Filipina nurse as she returned to work.


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