Libya: Lawmaker Taken Hostage in Tobruk

Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

In Tobruk, which is the current seat of the internationally recognized Libyan government, a member of parliament has been kidnapped, in the midst of a United Nations effort to negotiate a unified government.

Mohamed al-Ra’id was elected in 2014 from a district in Misrata, but was only just sworn in because he has been boycotting the Libyan House of Representatives, in part due to concerns for his safety. He is described by the Libya Herald as chief executive of “the successful, Misrata-based Al-Nasseem yogurt and ice-cream company.”

Al-Ra’id came to Tobruk to vote for the Libyan Political Agreement, the deal to create a national unity government with the Islamist militias that current control the capital city of Tripoli.

The U.N. deal, months in the making, was rejected by the Libyan parliament on Monday, but a new proposal is said to be in the works, with the European Union adding some muscle by considering sanctions against those who attempt to “spoil” the unity deal.

By all indications, the kidnapping has little to do with Libya’s chaotic politics. A Libyan official told AFP that al-Ra’id was on his way to the airport in Tobruk when he was abducted by a man demanding “the transfer of his two sons, who have been convicted in a drugs case, from Misrata prison to another one in the east of the country.”

Other sources, such as the Libya Herald, describe the kidnappers as “a group of militiamen,” but confirm the story that freeing the two imprisoned brothers is their demand.

“Local Tobruk elders are now in contact with the abductors and the family of the two brothers, trying to gain his freedom,” writes the Herald. “The family are said to be demanding, at the very least, that the two be tranferred to a jail nearer Tobruk.”

Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. support mission in Libya, spoke out against the kidnapping on Twitter:

After a day of captivity in a house in Tobruk, another member of the House of Representatives, Saleh Hashim Obeidi, told the Libya Herald he was in contact with the kidnappers, and they personally promised him that al-Ra’id would be released tonight. He said he had spoken with al-Ra’id three times, and the hostage has also been allowed to use his cell phone to contact his family.

Obeidi stressed the behavior of the abductors was a totally unacceptable “criminal action.”


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