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Sep 22, 2:01 PM EDT

Italian team arrives in Libya to investigate kidnappings


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BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) -- Libyan officials say a team of five Italian investigators has arrived in a town near the Algerian border where two Italians and a Canadian were abducted at gunpoint earlier this week.

Hassan Osman Eissa of the Ghat municipal council says the team met local authorities Thursday, adding that the kidnappings were not, to his knowledge, the work of al-Qaida as some reports stated, but rather "a local group of outlaws."

Libyan authorities say they are searching the area after the foreigners were kidnapped Monday off a nearby highway in Libya's southwestern desert.

Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Much of the country is ruled by a patchwork of local and tribal militias, and Islamic militants have also gained a foothold.

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