TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Gunmen from a former rebel faction kidnapped Libya’s prime minister on Thursday in reprisal for the government’s role in the U.S. capture of a top al Qaeda suspect, shattering a fragile peace.
The militia, which had been hired by the government to provide security in Tripoli, said it “arrested” Ali Zeidan after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed Libya’s role in the weekend capture in the city of Abu Anas al-Liby.
“His arrest comes after … (Kerry) said the Libyan government was aware of the operation,” a spokesman for the group, known as the Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, told Reuters.
Two years after a revolution toppled Col. Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is in turmoil, with its vulnerable central government and nascent armed forces struggling to contain rival tribal militias and Islamist militants who control parts of the country.
The kidnapping raises the stakes in the unruly OPEC nation, where the regional factions are also seeking control over its oil wealth, which provides Libya with the vast bulk of government revenues.
Brent oil prices rose on the news.
“Everybody is watching this… We still haven’t seen any disruption to supply from Libya, so we don’t expect a spike in prices,” said Ken Hasegawa, a commodity sales manager at Newedge Japan.
A mix of striking workers, militias and political activists have blocked Libya’s oilfields and ports for more than two months resulting, according to Oil Minister Abdelbari Arusi, in over $5 billion of lost revenues.
He said on October 2 that oil exports could return to full capacity in days once the strikes ended.