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Health staff strike after doctor’s kidnapping in southern Libya

Medical staffers have suspended work for 10 days in protest against poor security in the southern Libyan city of Sabha after a doctor was kidnapped there.

The staff at the Sabha Medical Center, the biggest hospital in southern Libya, and at private clinics in the city announced a 10-day strike on Sunday to demand Salem al-Selhab’s release and the provision of security for medical staff.

Selhab, who worked in the surgical department of the center, was kidnapped by an unknown group on Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, Osama al-Wafi, a spokesman for the center, complained of growing insecurity in the region.

“For a long time the medical staff of the Sabha Medical Center have suffered attacks, abuse and been shot at,” the spokesman said, adding that Selhab’s kidnapping was a serious setback.

“This doctor was very important,” he said.

According to Wafi, the center receives 70 percent of its backing from international organizations in the absence of state support from rival governments in Tripoli and the east.

“We suffer greatly from a shortage of medicines, political division and lack of support,” he said.

In a statement, the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the international bodies to provide the center with support, strongly denounced violence against staff in the area.

“WHO urges all to refrain from attacking health workers and facilities, as required by international humanitarian law, and calls upon parties responsible for the kidnapping of the doctor in Sabha to ensure his safety and immediate release,” the statement read.

Health services across the North African country have been severely disrupted by years of conflict, with the remote south particularly affected.

Libya has turned into a scene of rampant militancy since the NATO military intervention of 2011, which came amid an uprising against longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi who was ousted and later killed.

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