|NATO chief urges rebels to release abducted Libyan PM
Gunmen seized Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (pictured) from a Tripoli hotel early today, in the latest sign of the lawlessness sweeping Libya since Moamer Kadhafi was toppled in 2011.
It appeared to be in retaliation for the US special forces raid over the weekend that seized a Libyan al-Qaida suspect. US commandos embarrassed and angered Libya by capturing senior Al-Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Libi off the streets of Tripoli and whisking him away to a warship.
“The head of the transitional government, Ali Zeidan, was taken to an unknown destination for unknown reasons by a group,’’ of men believed to be former rebels, the government said in a brief statement on its website.
NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for his immediate release.
“I am watching developments very closely and with great concern,'' Rasmussen said at a press conference. “I call for his immediate release,'' he said, adding that “stability and the rule of law are very important,’’ in Libya as it seeks to rebuild.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also called for his release.
“I condemn the abduction of the Libyan prime minister in Tripoli this morning and call for his immediate release,'' Hague said in a statement.
A source in the Libyan premier's office said Zeidan had been taken from Tripoli's Corinthia Hotel, where he resides.
“A large number of armed men entered the place very early on Thursday. But we did not know what was happening,'' a hotel employee told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A group of former rebels, which had roundly denounced Libi's abduction and blamed Zeidan's government for it, said it had “arrested'' Zeidan.
The Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries, which in principle reports to the defense and interior ministries, said on Facebook it had seized Zeidan “on the prosecutor's orders.’’
The premier “was arrested under the Libyan penal code... on the instructions of the public prosecutor,’’ the group said.
It said he was detained for “crimes and offenses prejudicial to the state'' and its security.
The cabinet said on its Facebook page that ministers were “unaware of immunity being lifted or of any arrest warrant'' for the prime minister.
The Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries had expressed outrage at the brazen daylight raid by US commandos to capture Libi.
The government statement said it suspected two groups of ex-rebels, the Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries and the Brigade for the Fight against Crime, of being behind the abduction.
US State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki, travelling with Secretary of State John Kerry in Brunei, said Washington was seeking more information.
Zeidan, who was named prime minister a year ago, had on Tuesday condemned the US raid and insisted that all Libyans should be tried on home soil.—AFP/AP