Anti-govt opponents behind abduction, Libyan PM says

4 min

Following his brief abduction by armed men on Thursday, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan told FRANCE 24 that a political party seeking to "overthrow the government by any means" was behind the incident.


Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan told FRANCE 24 that an unspecified "political party" seeking his ouster was behind his brief abduction by armed men on Thursday.

"This is a political party that wants to destabilise the current government and bring it down by any means," Zeidan said, adding that he would soon be providing more details to the country's transitional parliament.

"In the coming days I will give more information on who this political party is that organised my kidnapping," Zeidan said.

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.

Witnesses said Zeidan was held at a police station south of the capital, and that his captors let him go after armed residents surrounded the building and demanded his release.

Back to work

Soon after being freed Zeidan met with his ministers and members of the General National Congress, Libya's highest political authority.

The premier appeared in good health as he arrived at government headquarters immediately after his ordeal, waving to waiting well-wishers as he climbed out of an armoured car.

"I hope this problem will be resolved with reason and wisdom" and without any "escalation", Zeidan said as he left a cabinet meeting, in comments broadcast by state TV.

The pre-dawn seizure of Zeidan from the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, where he resides, came five days after US commandos angered the government by capturing Abu Anas al-Libi, a senior al Qaeda suspect, on the streets of Tripoli.

Libi, 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.

A rebel group who initially claimed responsibility for Zeidan's abduction, the Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries, cited Libi's capture as the catalyst for the kidnapping but later retracted its statement and blamed Zeidan's government.

The Brigade for the Fight against Crime, a police division made up of former rebels, later also claimed responsibility, according to the LANA state news agency.

The government said it suspected both groups of being behind the abduction.

The groups fall under the control of the defence and interior ministries but largely operate autonomously.

A country awash with weapons

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.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)


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