The gunmen behind the abduction of four foreign workers in Ubari came in three cars, one fled to Ghat and the others to downtown Ubari, according to eyewitness accounts.
“The four engineers arrived in the morning flight from Tripoli and as their car approached the power station they were ambushed by gunmen in three vehicles - two Hyundai Vernas and a Toyota truck with a mounted Doshka machinegun,” an eyewitness told a meeting of security officials from the city. “Two of the gunmen were injured after exchanging fire with the guards, but they managed to put three Turks in the Toyota before taking off toward Ghat as the others pushed the South African engineer into one of the Vernas and took off to downtown Ubari,” he added.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Ghat connection does raise concerns about possible jihadi involvement. Located in Libya’s far south near the border with Algeria and Mali, the city has become a main stop on the supply lines of jihadi groups that have been operating in the Sahara since 2011. “We don’t rule out a terrorist act, but kidnapping is rife in this region mostly as source of income for criminal gangs,” a security official told this website.
Forces aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA) – Libya’s UN-backed government – were today said to be surrounding a property to the north of Ghat where kidnapers are believed to be hiding, according to media reports quoting an unnamed GNA official.
The kidnapped engineers were working on the construction of Ubari’s power station. The General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL), which owns the project, put out a statement yesterday announcing the abduction: “At around 11:30 of today, an armed group has abducted four workers of different nationalities (Turkish and South African) who have just arrived at the project site from Ubari airport. GECOL condemns this barbaric and irresponsible act and calls on the relevant authorities of the Libyan state to bear their responsibilities and ensure their immediate release.”
Turkey’s Enka, one of the companies contracted to build the station, released the following statement yesterday: “Around midday today in Libya three of our citizens, two of them our personnel who were temporarily working in the country, were kidnapped by unidentified people while they were traveling outside the building site," the statement said. "Our company is following the subject closely, in contact with Turkish and Libyan authorities," it added.
Local sources said today that all workers of both Enka and Germany’s Siemens have gone back to Tripoli which would be a major blow to the GNA whose president, Fayez Serraj, has personally lobbied his counterparts in Turkey and Germany in the hope that the reopening of the station might help resolve his country’s electricity crisis.