Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan during his abudction from a Tripoli hotel on Thursday morning.
All sorts of contradictory claims were made Thursday in Tripoli surrounding the circumstances of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan’s “kidnapping” and/or “arrest”. He was finally freed six hours after being snatched from the hotel where he lives by about 150 gunmen. According to our Observer, the confusion surrounding the incident reflects a deteriorating security situation in Libya, where militias and the authorities are fighting for control.
Zidan was taken from the hotel where he lives, the Corinthia Hotel, at dawn Thursday. Shortly afterwards, a message claiming responsibility for abducting him was published on the Facebook page belonging to “Libya’s Revolutionaries”, a state-affiliated militia group. But later in the morning, another message was posted on the page, this time denying any involvement. Then, a spokesperson from the Anti-Crime Department announced that the prime minister was being detained in their offices, inside the Interior ministry. He specified that this was an “arrest”, not a kidnapping. To help analyse this incident, we turned to our Tripoli-based Observer Karim Nabata, who writes for Libyablog, a joint project between FRANCE 24 and RFI.
Officially, Libya’s Revolutionaries did not abduct Zidan; the Anti-Crime Department did. But in reality, this department of the interior ministry is made up of members from Libya’s Revolutionaries, which is an umbrella group in which all Libyan militias are represented. [Editor’s Note: Abdelhakim al-Balaazi, a spokesperson for the Anti-Crime Department, himself is a former member of a militia from the eastern Libyan city of Zentan].
After [former Libyan dictator] Muammar Gaddafi fell from power, the militias became all-powerful in Libya. The authorities tried to give them jobs at various levels within the state structure, hoping that this would make it easier to control them and consolidate power.
However, it is clear today that this strategy failed: militias agreed to take on these jobs which gave them greater legitimacy, but continued to work in their own interest and disobey orders from their superiors. [Editor’s Note: The Interior minister condemned the prime minister’s abduction].
Zidan was indeed kidnapped by militiamen, but these militiamen used their role with the Interior ministry to appear more legitimate. This proves that in Libya today, there is a state within the state, and it is pursuing its own agenda.
The prime minister’s abduction took place just a few days after a US raid in Libya, during which one of Al Qaeda’s suspected leaders, Nazih Abdul-Hamed Al-Ruqai, was captured. This provoked the ire of Libya’s Islamist militias.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira (@SarraGrira).