Libyan PM says abduction was 'coup' attempt

4 min

In a televised address on Friday, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said his brief abduction the previous day was an attempted coup by his political opponents in the country’s national assembly.


A day after he was briefly abducted from a Tripoli hotel, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan lashed out against Libya’s militia groups and said his capture was part of an attempted “coup” by his political opponents.

"They wanted to overthrow the government," said Zeidan in a televised address on Friday evening. "This was not an attempted kidnapping only of a prime minister, but of the government."

He went on to accuse members within the General National Council, the country's national assembly, of plotting the abduction. The assembly has been caught in a deadlock between the country’s leading secular party and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Libyan prime minister has been facing a possible vote of no confidence.

Zeidan’s accusations mirrored his comments earlier Friday, when the Libyan prime minister told FRANCE 24 an unspecified "political party" seeking his ouster was behind his brief abduction.

"This is a political party that wants to destabilise the current government and bring it down by any means," said Zeidan in an interview with FRANCE 24, adding that he would soon be providing “more information on this political party that organised my kidnapping”.

At a televised press conference following his Friday night address, Zeidan appeared to be seeking to leverage the outrage over his shocking abduction and direct it against the country’s militias.

"They want to turn Libya into Somalia, into Liberia, into Congo-Kinshasa after Mobutu [Sese Seko] was ousted," said Zeidan.

Back to work

The Libyan prime minister’s abduction raised disturbing questions about the perilous security situation in the North African nation two years after the fall of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The pre-dawn seizure of Zeidan from the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, where he currently 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 Gaddafi's ouster, 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.


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