Libyan Prime Minister Kidnapped, or ‘Arrested’ by Militia

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Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. Photo: MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images

In the wake of the U.S. Special Forces raid on Saturday that led to the capture of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, a top al-Qaeda suspect, some worried that the operation undermined Libya's already weak government, but the situation just got even worse. Early on Thursday morning, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted by armed men from the Tripoli hotel where he resides. The government confirmed in a statement that, "The head of the transitional government, Ali Zeidan, was taken to an unknown destination for unknown reasons by a group" believed to be former rebels. A coalition of militia leaders, known as Operations Room of Libya's Revolutionaries, told Reuters, "His arrest comes after the statement by John Kerry about the capture of [Ruqai], after he said the Libyan government was aware of the operation."

Since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi two years ago, parts of the country have fallen under the control of various militias, which have sometimes been enlisted as state security forces, as there's no adequate police force or army. Many of the groups were angered by the capture of Ruqai, who was wanted for his role 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, and accused the Libyan government of colluding in the raid. Zeidan denied that the government knew anything about the raid and said Libyans have a right to be tried at home.

Witnesses say 150 militia members entered the Corinthia Hotel just before dawn, scuffled with the prime minister's guards, then led him out of the building. A spokesman for the group told the Associated Press that he was arrested on charges of harming state security and corruption, but the public prosecutor's office says it hasn't issued a warrant.