Belgrade (AFP) - Two Serbian embassy employees, a man and a woman, were abducted in Libya's coastal city of Sabratha on Sunday while they were travelling in convoy to Tunisia, officials said.
Serbia's ambassador to Libya was in the motorcade in a separate car when the incident took place, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the main border crossing between Libya and Tunisia.
A foreign ministry statement identified the abducted pair as Sladjana Stankovic, in charge of communications, and Jovica Stepic, a driver.
"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," Ambassador Oliver Potezica told Serbian state news agency Tanjug.
The attackers, who were all masked, then asked the woman to get out and into their car before speeding off, Potezica said, adding that one attacker had opened fire on a Libyan citizen in the convoy and hit him in the leg.
Sabratha is considered a bastion for extremists in lawless Libya, which has become a magnet for radical militants who receive weapons training in jihadist camps before launching deadly attacks in other countries.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told the state broadcaster RTS that he had spoken with Libyan officials about the kidnapping and expected a positive outcome within 48 hours.
But Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic earlier said they had "no information" about the identity of the kidnappers.
"Nobody has contacted us to demand anything. We are following the situation," he told RTS, adding that a crisis committee had been set up.
- 'Full alert' -
A commander in the Sabratha Military Council, which is in charge of the area's security and loyal to a militia alliance which controls Tripoli, told AFP that "all security branches are on full alert in the city since the Serbians were abducted".
"There are checkpoints everywhere, and we are looking for them. We have also alerted neighbouring cities and areas and asked them to set up new checkpoints," he said, adding that the pair were still believed to be in Sabratha.
Libya descended into chaos after the October 2011 ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with two governments vying for power and armed groups battling to control its vast energy resources.
A militia alliance including Islamists overran Tripoli in August 2014, establishing a rival government and parliament that forced the internationally recognised administration to flee to the country's remote east.
Belgrade maintains an embassy in Tripoli and Serbian citizens, mostly doctors and other medical staff as well as construction workers, have been working in Libya for decades due to close bilateral relations during Kadhafi's regime.
The Serbian foreign ministry statement said it was doing "everything possible, in a difficult situation on the ground, to get more information and ensure the return of our citizens".
Sabratha is on the edge of a region known as Jefara, which analysts say is home to formerly nomadic tribes that make a living from smuggling and trafficking.
In June, after a Tunisian student armed with an assault rifle mowed down 38 tourists at a beach resort in his country, Tunisia's secretary of state for security said the shooter had been trained in Sabratha.