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Libyan cop in Benghazi kidnapped

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Abdelsalam al-Mahdawi, the head of Benghazi's criminal investigation department, was kidnapped on his way to work today by gunmen at an intersection in Libya's second largest city.

Benghazi was the heart of the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and since then it has failed to bring the militias that fought on the side of the revolution – some Islamist, some not – under any kind of government control. They remain armed and often a law unto themselves in the city. Criminal gangs, spawned from militias, are also at work.

The list of potential suspects is long, particularly since Mr. Mahdawi's personal background isn't immediately clear. Was he someone who served Mr. Qaddafi's regime at one point, and is being targeted for revenge? Could it be a personal or family dispute? Could his investigations of militias and/or criminals be the reason for his kidnapping? A simple matter of kidnap-for-ransom? All are possible.

But what's likely is that sorting out what's happened to him will be confusing, subject to completing claims, and difficult for any neutral observer trying to get at the truth to figure out. That's been the pattern in violent incidents in Benghazi not just since the war ended, but before.

The attack on the US facility in Benghazi in September that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead is still not fully understood. Meanwhile, today's assault is the second attack on a senior police official in Benghazi since November, when Benghazi police chief Farraj al-Dursi was assassinated outside his house. Mr. Dursi, who served under Qaddafi's government, was appointed police chief during a shuffle of security in the city after the attack on the Americans in September.

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