Posted by News Express | 10 October 2013 | 4,439 times
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has said he has no intention of standing down, hours after was he was kidnapped by up to 100 gunmen before dawn from a Tripoli hotel
Ali Zeidan was seized on Thursday morning and held for several hours by a large militia of armed men in the capital, in the latest sign of the chaos facing the country.
Mr Zeidan was photographed being led away from the Corinthia Hotel on the city’s sea-front in the early hours of the morning. Two militias which claimed to be loyal to the government’s internal security apparatus said they had arrested him on charges of corruption and breaching national security.
But one also suggested it was a response to the US Delta Forces raid on Saturday which captured a wanted Islamist militant, Abu Anas al-Libi, and it was feared that what the government called Mr Zeidan’s abduction was part of a wider backlash by Islamist groups.
Mr Zeidan was taken to what the militias described as an “interior ministry anti-crime unit” where he was said to be “in good health”, according to a statement. But seven hours later, a rival militia went to the building and seized him back.
A statement posted on Mr Zeidan’s twitter feed early on Thursday afternoon said: “I am fine, thank God. If the aim of the kidnapping operation was for me to present my resignation, then I won’t resign.
“We are taking small steps, but in the right direction.”
Reporters at the scene described shots being fired outside the building. According to one report, by mid-day he was being held at a private house of a militia member “for his own protection” prior to being taken to his office.
Mr Zeidan was staying at the Corinthia, Tripoli’s most imposing hotel, partly because he feared for his safety. In the absence of a strong central army or police force, numerous competing militias repeatedly threaten government officials and institutions with the use of force to get their way.
He came under furious verbal attack, particularly from Islamists, after the US dawn raid in Tripoli on Saturday.
Al-Libi, whose real name is Nazih Abdulhamad al-Ruqaie and who was founder member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was indicted in a New York court in 2001 on charges of helping to plan the al-Qaeda bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar el-Salaam which killed 224 people.
After a career which had seen him move between Sudan, Britain, Afghanistan and Iran, he returned to live openly with his family in Tripoli after the 2011 revolution began.
At the time of the raid, Mr Zeidan said he had not been informed in advance and issued a demand for “clarification” to the US authorities.
However, American officials briefed reporters in Washington that the Libyan authorities had been given general notification though not the precise details of the raid.
Al-Libi's family said that men speaking the Libyan dialect of Arabic were involved, leading many to believe that the government was actively involved. In any case, Mr Zeidan came under fire for failing to stand up for Libyan sovereignty and was accused of being an “American puppet”.
The two “revolutionary brigades” who claimed responsibility for seizing Mr Zeidan, the “Operations Room of Revolutionaries” and the “Brigade for the Fight against Crime” are both theoretically are under government control. A spokesman who called himself Hakim Abdulaz told The Telegraph he had been arrested for corruption and breach of state security in a case brought by one Abdulraouf Mannai.
Hashem Bishr, the Tripoli head of the government State Security Committee, said the charges dated back to June and were not connected to al-Libi’s capture.
But another statement referred to a statement by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, that the Libyan authorities had been aware in advance of the American raid.
Staff at the hotel, where he had been living because of previous threats, said there had been no trouble during the arrest. A photograph apparently provided by the militias themselves and passed to state television showed a confused Mr Zeidan, without his trademark spectacles, in what appeared to be night-clothes.
“The head of the transitional government, Ali Zeidan, was taken to an unknown destination for unknown reasons,” a government statement posted on the prime minister’s Facebook site said. Officials said an earlier statement denying the kidnapping had been posted at the same place on the kidnappers’ instructions.
Some Tripoli residents said that factions opposed to Mr Zeidan had used his perceived weakness to move against him. He is seen as a pro-Western liberal, and although he has appointed moderate Islamists to his government he is still disliked by some Islamist members of the General National Congress.
Whatever the precise background Thursday morning's chaotic events reflect the lack of central government control over the numerous armed groups operating in Libya – many claiming they are loyal but working to their own authority.
In a similar recent case, Anoud Senussi the daughter of Col Gaddafi's security “enforcer”, Abdullah Senussi, was abducted after being released from prison earlier this year.
The militia which seized her said she had been taken for her own protection and she was later released. State Department spokeswoman 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.”
William Hague, the foreign secretary, condemned Mr Zeidan’s abduction. “Our ambassador is in touch with other members of the interim government,” he said. “It is vital that the process of political transition in Libya is maintained. The government and people of Libya have our full support at this concerning time.”
•Credit (except headline): The Telegraph. Photo shows Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan surrounded by men at an unidentified location.
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