20/09/2016 10:27 PM AEST | Updated 20/09/2016 10:28 PM AEST

Two Italians, Canadian Kidnapped In Libya, Authorities Say

Armed groups are active in the southern desert from where the trio was reported abducted.

Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters
A vehicle transporting a group of African migrants drives through the desert on their journey from Ghat in southwest Libya May 29, 2014. A smuggler was transporting a group of African migrants through the desert to northern Libya. Libya's southwestern tip in the Sahara bordering Algeria and Niger has turned into an open door for illegal migrants from sub-Saharan countries heading for Europe, with the chaotic government in Tripoli appearing to have abandoned all control. The revolt that overthrew Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi three years ago emptied Libya's arsenals, flooded the region with guns and dismantled much of the state apparatus, giving well-organised smuggler networks the run of the border. Border officials say up to 200 Africans cross the Ghat border strip every day, most headed north to the Mediterranean coast for the onward trip to Europe by boat. Picture taken May 29, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah (LIBYA - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS IMMIGRATION) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 17 OF 31 FOR PACKAGE 'MIGRANT FLIGHT THROUGH LIBYA' TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'JADALLAH GHAT'

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Two Italians and a Canadian have been kidnapped in Libya’s southwestern desert, possibly by a criminal gang, authorities said.

The three, who were working on airport projects, were abducted between the towns of Ghat and Tahala, near the border with Algeria early on Monday, Ghat’s mayor Gomani Mohamad Saleh told Reuters.

“The two Italians were working on a runway project at the airport but the Canadian was working on installing air aviation system,” he said on Tuesday.

“The security authorities are following the incident closely ... That’s all the information we have so far.”

Numerous criminal and armed groups are active in Libya’s vast southern desert, and al Qaeda-linked militants have long had a presence across the border between Libya and Algeria.

The Italian foreign ministry said late on Monday that two of its citizens had been abducted in theLibyan desert, without giving further details.

The Canadian government said it was aware of a “troubling yet unconfirmed report of the abduction of a Canadian citizen in Libya”.

Local media reports said the three were working for the Libyan branch of Italian firm Contratti internazionali Costruzioni SpA. The company declined to comment when contacted.

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