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Africa

Libyan PM abducted in Tripoli, government says

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-10-10

Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been abducted in Tripoli, the country's justice minister told FRANCE 24 on Thursday. Libya's LANA state news agency reported that Zeidan is being held at the interior ministry's anti-crime department.

Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been abducted in Tripoli, Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani told FRANCE 24 on Thursday. A government statement confirmed that gunmen had taken Zeidan from the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, where he resides.

Al-Arabiya and other news agencies published video stills of the abduction of the prime minister, frowning and wearing a beige shirt undone at the collar, surrounded by several men in civilian clothes pressing closely around him.

Libya's LANA state news agency reported that Zeidan, 63, is being held at the interior ministry's anti-crime department.

The rebel group that claimed responsibility for Zeidan’s abduction, which had been working with the interior ministry, said it was carried out in retribution for the Libyan government allegedly allowing a US raid on Libyan territory last weekend that captured al Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Liby.

“His arrest comes after the statement by [US Secretary of State] John Kerry about the capture of Abu Anas al-Liby, after he said the Libyan government was aware of the operation,” said a spokesman for the rebel group Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries.

Liby, who was on the FBI's most wanted list with a $5 million (€3.7 million) bounty on his head for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, was captured by US forces in an October 5 raid. He is reportedly being held aboard a US Navy ship in the Mediterranean.

Zeidan, who was named prime minister a year ago, on Tuesday condemned the US raid and said all Libyans should be tried on home soil.

Political strife

Zeidan "will be treated well as a Libyan citizen", a spokesman for the interior ministry’s anti-crime department told the LANA state news agency, adding that the prime minister remains “in good health”.

Abdel-Moneim al-Hour of 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, however, said it had not issued a warrant for his arrest.

The rebel group that claimed responsibility for his abduction had been working with the interior ministry to provide security in the capital.

Two years after a revolution toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s central government is virtually held hostage by powerful militias, which are interwoven into the country’s fragmented power structure. With the country's police and army in disarray, many militiamen are enlisted to serve in state security agencies, though they are often more loyal to their local commanders than to the central government.

The state is struggling to contain the influence of both the tribal militias and the Islamist militants who control parts of the country, as well as reconcile persistent internal divisions.

Many Libyans blame entrenched political rivalries for the problems plaguing the country’s nascent democracy, while the country remains awash with weapons left over from the 2011 revolution that toppled Gaddafi.

And public anger is growing as widespread violence, including a raft of political assassinations, proliferates.

NATO calls for 'immediate release'

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for Zeidan’s “immediate release”, saying he was monitoring developments in Libya “with great concern”.

"If it is confirmed I call for his immediate release," he said, adding that "stability and the rule of law are very important" in Libya as it seeks to rebuild.

Britain and France led the establishment of a NATO no-fly zone in Libya in 2011 at the beginning of the popular uprising that led to the fall of Gaddafi.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

Date created : 2013-10-10

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