Bloomberg News

Libyan Anti-Crime Unit Holding Prime Minister After Hotel Arrest

October 10, 2013

Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zaidan

Ali Zaidan, Libya's prime minister. Photographer: Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zaidan was detained at a hotel in the country’s capital at dawn and is being held at an undisclosed location, according to the security forces.

The Interior Ministry’s Crime Combatting Authority said it was holding Zaidan and that he’s in good health, the group’s spokesman, Abdel Hakim Al Belaazi, told the state-owned Libyan Arab News Agency today, without elaborating. The arrest was carried out in a dawn raid at the Corinthia Hotel by the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room, which later told LANA that Zaidan was suspected of corruption.

Oil rose after reports of Zaidan’s seizure. The Pentagon said on Oct. 6 that U.S. forces had arrested Abu Anas al-Libi in Libya on suspicion of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and to conduct attacks against American interests worldwide. Militia violence has plagued Libya ever since the capture and death of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 and has intensified in recent months with groups refusing to heed government calls to disband.

Zaidan’s detention “illustrates the criminality and lack of security for even the most senior officials in Tripoli,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said by telephone. “This will bring uncertainty to companies and governments operating there, and will highlight the fact that the security scene in Tripoli is subject to wild gyrations.”

Former Fighters

The Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room is an alliance of former fighters who took part in the civil war against Qaddafi. The group is affiliated with the Interior Ministry. The government has sought to curb the influence of militia groups by putting their members on the payrolls of the defense and interior ministries. Libya’s national council was negotiating for the premier’s release and a rebel spokesman said he’d be handed to the prosecuting authorities, Sky News Arabia reported, citing unidentified people.

Libya currently produces about 700,000 barrels a day of oil, or less than half the level before the rebellion that toppled Qaddafi. Brent for November settlement rose 0.7 percent to $109.82 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange at 9:43 a.m in London.

“It may have implications for the oil market, it shows how volatile and unsafe Libya is,” Eugen Weinberg, head of commodities research at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt, said by phone today. “Yet again, it elevates the geopolitical risk in the whole region, adding to the one already existing in Egypt and Syria.”

‘Unknown Destination’

Zaidan was taken “to an unknown destination for unknown reasons by a group believed to be the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room and the Crime Combating Committee,” the government said on its Facebook page. The Libyan cabinet is now holding an emergency meeting, government spokesman Mohamed Kaabar said by telephone.

The “well-being and safety” of Zaidan is the responsibility of those who are holding him now, Justice Minister Salah al-Merghani said on the government’s official Facebook page. The prosecutor’s office did not issue an arrest warrant for Zaidan, al-Merghani’s statement added without elaborating.

When asked about the reports of Zaidan’s disappearance, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Brunei today that “we are looking into these reports and we are in close touch with senior U.S. and Libyan officials on the ground.”

‘Appropriate Target’

Zaidan’s government later said it was not informed of the al-Libi operation in advance and summoned the U.S. ambassador. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Oct. 7 that al-Libi was a key al-Qaeda figure and “a legal and an appropriate target for the U.S. military.”

Born Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, al-Libi was indicted by the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York in 2000 for taking part in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The kidnapping of Zaidan is the first of an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries government member since the 1975 attack on its Vienna headquarters by gunmen led by Ilich Ramírez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mariam Sami in Cairo at msami2@bloomberg.net; Dana El Baltaji in Dubai at delbaltaji@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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