Kidnapped S. Korean trade official freed in Libya

Posted at 01/23/14 7:54 AM

TRIPOLI - A South Korean trade official who was kidnapped in Libya has been freed three days after he was taken hostage by armed men, the Libyan foreign ministry and South Korean media said Wednesday.

Han Seok-Woo, the head of the Libya unit of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), was freed Wednesday and was in good health, they said.

Libya's deputy foreign minister, Abdelrazak al-Gridi, told the Lana news agency that Libyan security forces freed him.

But South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing an official, reported that he was freed by Libyan gunmen who were then arrested.

The discrepancy between the two accounts was not immediately explained.

Gridi did not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding Han's release.

Yonhap said Han was to be handed over to the South Korean embassy.

Han was kidnapped in the capital of Tripoli on his way home after work on Sunday, a South Korean foreign ministry official who declined to be named told AFP at the time of the abduction.

The kidnap took place amid ongoing instability following the ouster and death of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Han was captured by four unidentified gunmen who dragged him out of his car, shoved him into their own vehicle and drove away, while leaving his Iraqi driver behind, according to the official.

Han has worked in the KOTRA office in Tripoli since 2012, Yonhap said, citing Seoul officials.

Libya has been plagued by violence and sporadic armed unrest in many parts of the country since Kadhafi's overthrow.

Its deputy industry minister was shot dead last week and Tripoli declared a state of emergency Saturday after fresh clashes with armed groups in the south.

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