After the capture of Libyan prime minister, what’s next?

Ali Zeidan, Libya
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, left, was briefly kidnapped in his own country Thursday.
Credit: Getty Images

First the militia captured the prime minister in his hotel room in central Tripoli, then it released him. The mystery surrounding the kidnapping of Libyan’s Ali Zeidan thickens: Less than 24 hours after kidnapping him “on orders from the prosecutor-general,” fighters from a group loosely tied to the government released the prime minister. Is Libya safe?

Metro spoke with James Forest, professor and director of security studies at the University of Massachusetts, who also researches insurgences and terrorism at the Pentagon-run Joint Special Operations University.

What does this incident stay about the state of security in Libya?

In a country that runs properly the government has a monopoly on the use of force. That’s clearly not the case in Libya. It’s very concerning when a violent group can coerce the leaders of the country with the use of force. It sends the message that we can catch you and force you to do things our way. And if the groups get away with it, it will undermine the government’s authority in the long run.

And then…?

The incident is concerning both domestically and internationally. Domestically, it will affect citizens’ faith in their government, in security, and in the economy. The pattern in Libya and other countries is that high levels of uncertainty lead to large numbers of people trying to leave. Internationally, it will impact countries’ willingness to do business with Libya. When a country signs an agreement with another country, it’s done in good faith and with the assumption that the country will have a functioning government. A situation like this could harm development aid to Libya, for example.

What should the international community do now?

We should communicate to the militias that it’s not in their interest to undermine the government: Fewer international government contracts, less development aid would affect all Libyans, them included.


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