Ali Zeidan, Libya’s prime minister, was kidnapped by a militia on Thursday, but released several hours later.
Libya’s prime minister was seized and held for several hours on Thursday by former rebel militiamen angry at the weekend capture by U.S. special forces of a Libyan al Qaeda suspect in Tripoli.
Ali Zeidan was freed unharmed but the incident underlined the anarchy prevailing in the oil-rich North African state, two years after the Western-backed overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.
A Reuters reporter saw Zeidan, a former diplomat opposed to Islamist radicals, arriving at his office after his ordeal.
The prime minister was expected to give an account shortly of his six hours or so in captivity. Gunmen associated with the fragmented Libyan security apparatus had hauled him at dawn from the luxury hotel where he lives under heavy guard.
Zeidan had distanced his government from U.S. assertions it had cooperated in Saturday’s capture of Abu Anas al-Liby, wanted for the al Qaeda bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya in 1998. But the group which seized Zeidan appeared to hold him responsible for helping Washington’s operation.
His brief detention was the latest of many incidents that demonstrate Libya’s post-Gaddafi turmoil. Its vulnerable central government and nascent armed forces are struggling to contain rival tribal militias and Islamist militants who control large parts of the country.
The militia, which was hired by the government to provide security in Tripoli, said it “arrested” Zeidan after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Libya had a role in the capture of Liby, whose real name is Nazih al-Ragye.
“His arrest comes after … (Kerry) said the Libyan government was aware of the operation,” a spokesman for the group, known as the Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, told Reuters. Adding to confusion, Libyan television later carried a denial from the Operations Room that it was involved.
At a cabinet meeting, Zeidan said, “I want to reassure the foreigners inside Libya that this issue happened within the context of political Libyan disagreements and the foreigners are not being targeted,” he said.
Good to know, but one wonders about Kerry and his big mouth. Surely the secretary of state knew of the delicate balance of forces in the Libyan government and that any hint of cooperation with the US in the raid that bagged al-Liby would lead to unforeseen problems for Zeidan. In his short tenure, Kerry has demonstrated a worrying habit of speaking without thinking. This works well on the floor of the senate where thinking is virually outlawed, but is problematic for a diplomat.
Meanwhile, Obama appears to be as good at transforming Libya as he is in transforming the US.