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South Korean trade official abducted in Libya is free

By Jethro Mullen and Soo Bin Park, CNN
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
[File photo] Libyan gunmen roam along Zawiyah Street in the Libyan capital Tripoli on January 3, 2012.
[File photo] Libyan gunmen roam along Zawiyah Street in the Libyan capital Tripoli on January 3, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Armed men kidnapped Han Seok-woo in Tripoli earlier this week
  • He has now been rescued and handed over to embassy officials, South Korea says
  • After his abduction, Seoul told South Koreans in Libya to leave the North African country
  • The Libyan government is struggling to impose law and order

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- A South Korean trade official abducted this week in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, has been rescued and his kidnappers detained, authorities said Thursday.

The incident has underscored the instability plaguing the oil-rich North African country.

Han Seok-woo, the head of the Libya unit of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, was handed over to the South Korean Embassy in Tripoli on Wednesday evening and is in good health, the South Korean foreign ministry said.

Libyan security forces have arrested the four men who abducted Han, 39, and determined that they were members of "an armed group," the ministry said without providing further details on their identity or the reason for the kidnapping.

It expressed its gratitude to the Libyan government for its "close cooperation" in rescuing Han.

After Han's kidnapping Sunday, the South Korean foreign ministry set up an emergency task force to deal with the abduction and dispatched a special envoy to Libya.

It also issued a warning against traveling to Libya and asked the 551 South Korean nationals living in the North African country to leave.

Libya's government and fragile state security forces are struggling to impose law and order in a country awash with weapons left over from the 2011 war that ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Militias, former rebel fighters and militants have refused to lay down their arms and often resort to force to impose their demands on the weak central authorities.

This month, gunmen shot dead Libya's deputy industry minister in the first assassination of a transitional government official since Gadhafi's ouster in October 2011.

READ: State Department: American stopped by Libyan authorities

READ: Bodies of two foreigners found on Libyan beach, officials say

Journalist Soo Bin Park reported from Seoul and CNN's Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Marie-Louise Gumuchian contributed to this report.

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