Last month, the Jordanian ambassador to Libya was taken hostage by gunmen in the Libyan capital. Officials in both countries said he was freed and returned to Jordan after his government agreed to the release of a Libyan citizen who was serving a life sentence on terrorism charges. The ambassador, Fawaz al-Itan, said he had been treated well in captivity when he arrived at a military airport in Jordan.
According to Jordanian foreign minister Nasser Judeh, the gunmen who kidnapped Mr. Itan had ties to Mohamed el-Dressi, a Libyan citizen who was convicted of plotting to blow up Jordan’s main international airport in 2007. Mr. Dressi flew to Libya the day before Mr. Itan’s reported release. Some fear that the apparent exchange of Mr. Dressi for Mr. Itan will embolden the militants even more.
Armed groups that grew out of the uprising that ousted Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi have spawned waves of killings and abductions in cities across the country. Libya’s central government has been powerless to halt the violence. After the apparent exchange was announced, former Libyan government official Mahmoud Shammam wrote sarcastically on Twitter: “Thank God for the safety of the state of law. Visit Libya so we can kidnap you!”
Mr. Itan is not the first diplomat to come under attack in the country. Militants killed J. Christopher Stevens, the United States ambassador, in the eastern city of Benghazi in 2012. In recent months, at least one Tunisian diplomat has been kidnapped and remains in the hands of the militants.
Mr. Judeh tried to play down suggestions that Mr. Dressi had been exchanged for the ambassador. He asserted that Mr. Dressi had not been freed and would serve out the remainder of his prison sentence in Libya. However, Saeed al-Aswad, a Libyan Foreign Ministry spokesman, repeatedly avoided questions about whether Mr. Dressi had been taken into custody upon arrival in a television interview, saying only “Mr. Dressi is in Libya.”`