TRIPOLI — Libya’s deputy intelligence chief was kidnapped outside Tripoli’s international airport Sunday, a month after the prime minister was snatched by militiamen.
Mustafa Noah, head of the espionage unit, was bundled into a vehicle in the parking lot and had no bodyguards with him at the time, two security sources said, without giving further details about the attackers or their motives.
The kidnapping, along with clashes in the capital that have killed dozens of people, highlights Libya’s struggle to curb rival militias and hard-line Islamists who refuse to disarm two years after they helped oust Moammar Gaddafi 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 briefly abducted by a militia group on the government payroll last month.
Tripoli city leaders called Sunday for street protests and strikes at shops, schools and universities to press Libya’s government to drive out militiamen blamed for clashes Friday and Saturday that killed 46 people. Violence broke out 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. It was the deadliest street violence in Tripoli since Gaddafi’s fall.
Misurata gunmen and rival militias clashed again Saturday east of the capital, killing one more. Tripoli was calmer Sunday — Misurata militia fighters of the Gharghour brigade had withdrawn from their base in the city, at least temporarily, and the military had taken over the area, witnesses and the government said. Many stores, schools and universities were closed in the capital Sunday, normally a working day in Libya.Residents set up barricades of metal, wood and tires to protect their streets and join the protest.
Militiamen and former fighters are often employed by the government to protect ministries and offices. But gunmen remain loyal to their commanders or tribes and often clash over the control of territory.