BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Libyan authorities have found the remains of three children abducted for ransom more than two years ago near the capital, in a case that highlighted the deterioration of security in the country since the 2011 uprising.
The children, a girl and two boys ranging from five to 12 years old, were kidnapped by armed men on their way to school in December 2015 in the coastal town of Surman. The bodies were found south of the town, according to police affiliated with the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli on Saturday.
The children were related to a prominent businessman, Reyad al-Shershari, who was quoted by local media as saying he had appealed to authorities but that they did not pursue the case.
Libya's al-Wasat news website reported that preliminary findings suggest the children were killed months after their abduction. The forensic report has yet to be released.
Last month, the police said they raided a hideout of the gang behind the abduction of the al-Shershari children and others, killing some members in an exchange of gunfire. They said the gang's leader was wounded and placed under arrest.
Al-Wasat reported that a gang member held in custody had helped lead authorities to the remains of the children.
Libya was plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Today the country is ruled by rival governments in the capital, Tripoli, and in the east, each backed by a loose array of militias.
Abduction has emerged as a lucrative trade amid the breakdown of authority. Gunmen kidnapped the mayor of a town south of Tripoli on Saturday, and last month the mayor of the capital itself was abducted from his home. The Tripoli mayor was later released.