TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan was snatched by gunmen before dawn Thursday from a Tripoli hotel where he resides, the government said. The abduction appeared to be in retaliation for the U.S. special forces raid over the weekend that seized a Libyan al-Qaida suspect from the streets of the capital.
Zidan’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 U.S. 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, Zidan’s seizure was depicted by various sources as either an “arrest” or an 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 Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, and are often referred to as “revolutionaries.”
A statement on the government’s official website said Zidan 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 Zidan had been arrested on accusations of harming state security and corruption. The public prosecutor’s office said it had issued no warrant for Zidan’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 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.”
The snatching of Zidan came hours after he met with the family of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, the al-Qaida suspect seized by the Americans, now being held in a U.S. warship.
Michael reported from Cairo.