Libya's prime minister lashes out
Oct 11, 2013 / 11:40 am
Libya's prime minister, who was abducted briefly by gunmen this week, lashed out on Friday against militias that have fueled his country's turmoil, warning that some armed group are trying to "terrorize" the government and turn the North African nation into another "Afghanistan or Somalia."
With his nationally televised press conference, the embattled Ali Zidan appeared to be seeking to leverage outrage over his abduction into momentum against the multiple armed groups — many of them including Islamic militants — that run rampant in the country since the 2011 toppling of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Militias have defied attempts by the weak central authorities to rein them in and often use violence against officials.
In a sign of the country's turmoil, a car bomb detonated Friday morning outside a building housing the Swedish and Finnish consulates in the eastern city of Benghazi, where militias are particularly prominent. No one was hurt in the blast, but it damaged the building's facade. The city, Libya's second largest, seen frequent violence, including killings of security officials, as well as a string of attacks on foreign diplomatic missions that have driven most of their staffs out of the city.
Zidan has been struggling with militias since he was named a year ago by parliament to lead the first democratically formed government since Gadhafi's ouster and death. But the tensions have been enflamed by last Saturday's raid by U.S. special forces that snatched a Libyan al-Qaida suspect off the streets of the capital and whisked him off to custody in a U.S. warship.
The raid angered many militiamen, particularly Islamic extremists among them, who accuse Zidan — who has cultivated close security co-operation with the United States — of collaborating in the abduction of a Libyan citizen. Zidan's government has denied any prior knowledge of the raid. The raid is believed to have prompted Zidan's own abduction on Thursday, when gunmen stormed into the luxury Tripoli hotel where he lives and took him away, holding him for several hours.
Islamic hard-liners held marches in Tripoli on Friday, denouncing the raid and criticizing the government.
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