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PM's kidnap reflects Libyan govt's weakness

10 October 2013, 10:33

Tripoli - Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was snatched by gunmen before dawn on Thursday from a Tripoli hotel where he resides, the government said.

The abduction appeared to be in retaliation for the US special forces raid over the weekend that seized a Libyan al-Qaeda suspect from the streets of the capital.

Ali Zeidan’s abduction reflected the weakness of Libya's government, which is virtually held hostage by powerful militias, many of which are made up of Islamic militants. Militants were angered by the US capture of the suspected militant, known as Abu Anas al-Libi, and accused the government of colluding in or allowing the raid.

In a sign of Libya's chaos, Zeidan’s seizure was depicted by various sources as either an "arrest" or abduction.

That is because the militias are interwoven in Libya's fragmented power structure. With the police and army in disarray, many are enlisted to serve in state security agencies, though their loyalty is more to their own commanders than to government officials and they have often intimidated or threatened officials. The militias are rooted in the brigades that fought in the uprising that toppled autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and are often referred to as "revolutionaries".

Security and corruption

A statement on the government's official website said Zeidan was taken at dawn to an "unknown location for unknown reasons" by a group believed to be "revolutionaries" from a security agency known as the Anti-Crime Committee. The Cabinet held an emergency meeting Thursday morning, headed by Zidan's deputy, Abdel-Salam al-Qadi.

Abdel-Moneim al-Hour, an official with the Anti-Crime Committee, told The Associated Press that Zeidan had been arrested on accusations of harming state security and corruption. The public prosecutor's office said it had issued no warrant for Zeidan’s arrest.

A government official said gunmen broke into the luxury hotel in downtown Tripoli where Zidan lives and abducted him and two of his guards. The two guards were beaten but later released. The official spoke to AP on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry in Brunei, said, "We are looking into these reports and we are in close touch with senior US and Libyan officials on the ground."

The snatching of Zidan came hours after he met with the family of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, the al-Qaeda suspect seized by the Americans, now being held in a US warship.

- AP


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