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Islamist leader says Libyan prime minister has failed

Published: Updated:

The leader of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood political party said Saturday that the country’s prime minister - who was briefly abducted by militia members earlier this week - has failed and needs to be replaced.

Mohammed Sawan, leader of Justice and Construction party, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Saturday from Benghazi that the Libyan parliament is “seriously searching for an alternative” to Ali Zeidan. Sawan said mismanagement by Zeidan’s government might have led to “irresponsible actions” by individuals, referring to Zeidan’s kidnapping.

Simmering tensions in Libya were enflamed by an Oct. 5 raid by U.S. special forces that snatched a Libyan al-Qaeda suspect known as Abu Anas al-Libi off the streets of Tripoli and whisked him off to custody in a U.S. warship.

“This was a blatant violation to the national sovereignty,” Sawan said. He added: “It has caused big problems and grave repercussions.”

Zeidan for months has been facing mounting pressures from parliament, first by Islamist blocs including the Muslim Brotherhood and another group of ultraconservative Salafis. Independents later joined the criticism of Zeidan over allegations of corruption and wasting public fund, as well as the country’s deteriorating security.

Victim of insecurity

On Thursday, Zeidan himself became victim of the insecurity plaguing the country since the 2011 civil war that toppled dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Militias kidnapped the prime minister and held him for several hours. Such armed groups, many including Islamic extremists, carry out daily violence nationwide and have defied attempts by the weak central authorities to control them. Many of them are connected to political groups that have representatives in the parliament.

On Friday, Zeidan described his abduction as an attempted coup by his Islamist political rivals, using militias that he said are trying to “terrorize” the government and turn the country into another Afghanistan or Somalia.

Zeidan, however, did not name those specifically behind his kidnapping, only referring to the Libyan Revolutionaries Operation Room, the militia umbrella group loosely affiliated to Interior Ministry.

“I wish he named the political party he thinks is behind the operation,” Sawan said, adding that Zeidan told his lawmakers that he didn’t mean Muslim Brotherhood. “We are against any action that violates legitimacy.”

In addition to Zeidan’s abduction, militias have besieged key ministries in the capital and stormed ministers’ offices this summer to force the parliament to pass a divisive law aimed at purging officials who served under Gadhafi from new government. The parliament passed the law virtually at gunpoint, highlighting the challenges facing Libya as it tries to transition to democracy.

The Muslim Brotherhood came second in the country’s first parliamentary elections last year after a non-Islamist bloc led by the wartime prime minister. It has five ministers in Zeidan’s government.

A day before Zeidan’s abduction, parliament agreed to form a committee to discuss either an alternative to Zeidan or to summon him for questioning.

“The government represented by the prime minister has had no success,” Sawan said.