x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Libya’s espionage chief kidnapped

Head of country's espionage unit pulled into a vehicle in the car park and whisked away, security sources say.

Shops were ordered closed in Tripoli from November 17 in response to violent clashes that left 43 dead and more than 450 wounded. Mahmud Turkia / AFP
Shops were ordered closed in Tripoli from November 17 in response to violent clashes that left 43 dead and more than 450 wounded. Mahmud Turkia / AFP

TRIPOLI // Libya’s deputy intelligence chief was kidnapped outside Tripoli airport yesterday, two security sources said, days after clashes between rival militias and protesters in the capital killed at least 45 people.

Mustafa Noah, the head of the agency’s espionage unit, was pulled into a vehicle in the car park, and had no bodyguards with him at the time, one of the sources said.

Libya’s government is struggling to keep order as rival militias and hardline Islamists refuse to disarm two years after they helped oust Muammar Qaddafi in a Nato-backed uprising.

No group claimed responsibility for the abduction, but militias have snatched officials in the past to get political leverage. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted by a government-payrolled militia group last month, but freed unharmed after a few hours.

Tripoli’s city leaders yesterday called for street protests and strikes at shops, schools and universities to press Libya’s government to drive out militiamen blamed for the clashes.

Violence broke out on Friday when militiamen from the coastal city of Misurata opened fire on protesters marching on their brigade quarters in Tripoli to demand that they leave the capital.

Dozens of people were killed in the fighting that followed – the deadliest street violence in Tripoli since Qaddafi’s fall. Misurata gunmen and rival militias clashed again on Saturday to the east of the capital, killing one more.

Saadat Al Badry, the head of Tripoli’s local council, said that city leaders wanted all armed groups from outside Tripoli to leave the capital and demanded an investigation into the violence.

“We have declared a strike for three days from today, but if our demands are not met we will continue,” he said.

Many shops, schools and universities were closed in the capital yesterday. Residents set up barricades to protect their streets and join the protest.

* Reuters