by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
Islamic State (IS) militants have kidnapped a North Korean doctor and his wife in Libya during a raid, a local media outlet reported on Sunday.
According to the Libya Observer, a social-media based news outlet, the North Korean couple were abducted in Al-Noufleya, eastern Sirte, while they returning home after finishing their duty at the hospital.
The 66-year-old doctor is said to have been working with the Jalu Hospital in Tripoli for several years. While the driver of the doctor’s car, who was also kidnapped during the raid, was eventually released, the couple still remain hostages.
The Libya Observer added that the North Korean embassy is currently “keeping a round-the-clock contact with different parties” to find the couple’s whereabouts.
No further corroboration of the story was offered, as Yonhap News Agency reported that there is “no reason” for IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to abduct the North Korean doctor and his wife.
If local reports are true, it is unclear whether North Korea will pay the ransom fees to secure the couple’s release. It is also uncertain whether the latest kidnapping has any connection to the attack on South Korean embassy in Tripoli last April.
Up to 400 North Koreans reside in Libya in order to earn foreign currency for Pyongyang, according to the Korea Times.
After the Libyan civil war broke out in 2011, following the death of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Pyongyang had reportedly ordered North Koreans working in Libya to remain in the country and not return home. At the time, Yonhap News said Pyongyang was hoping to “prevent the popular uprisings in the Arab world from reaching the isolated regime.”
Featured image via Al Jazeera