By George Grant.
Tripoli, 7 October:
One of Libya’s most prominent political figures was kidnapped yesterday by a renegade militia operating in the . . .[restrict]west of Tripoli.
Juma El-Gamaty, who leads the Taghyeer Party, was dragged from his car at gunpoint in Hay Al-Andalous by a gang of assailants from the Qaaqaa brigade, having left for home together with colleague, Husni Al-Agil, at around 23:00.
The brigade, which hails from Zintan but also operates in Tripoli, is said to be renowned for criminal activity and has made several unauthorised arrests in the past.
“We were on our way home and found ourselves surrounded by five cars full of armed people wearing civilian clothes”, Gamaty told reporters today.
“They dragged us out of the car, put me in the back of a van and put my friend in another car. They blindfolded me, took my mobile phones and drove me to what looked like a farm or some sort of headquarters”.
Brandishing the cloth used to blindfold him, Gematy recalled how he was struck on the head by his kidnappers and driven from location to location before being dropped in a field on the outskirts of the capital.
Before leaving him, Gematy said his kidnappers warned him that he had got off lightly and that next time would be far worse.
“I found myself at sort of farm in the darkness”, he said. “I saw lights about 300 yards away and walked towards them until I reached a road where two men who were driving past saw me and offered to help.
“I asked them where I was and they told me I was in Sidi Salim, very close to the airport road. I asked them to take me to the nearest checkpoint, and it was there that I realised that the news of my kidnapping was out and everybody knew what had happened”.
He was then told that one of the kidnappers had already been arrested and was being held at Tripoli’s Metiga airbase. “Sure enough when we got there we identified him as one of the kidnappers. In front of us he admitted that this whole operation was organised by a man called Al-Harezi from the Qaaqaa brigade in west Tripoli.”
Speaking to the press today, Sunday, El-Gamaty said he was very grateful to be alive and see his family again but he was not going to be scared into silence. He was more determined than ever to expose those militias who had descended into crime. “As the people of Libya, we have to take these people on” he said if the country is to have institutions, a constitution and the rule of law.
“If we don’t then our government will be in big jeopardy.”
He had been targeted, he said, because two weeks ago he appeared on TV condemning them and, as result, people had demonstrated demanding they be disbanded. “They are angry I talked loudly. They wanted to scare and silence me.”
Libya’s is in danger if such criminals are not cracked down on hard, El-Gamaty said. “We’re at a crossroads.” Either strong arm tactics are used and the militias are disbanded and their members forced to join the army or “the transition to democracy will be in great danger”.
Rejecting any suggestion that Mahmoud Jibril was involved in the assault, he said the only people responsible was those involved in the kidnapping. “I hold them responsible and I demand the government and security institutions bring them to justice as soon as possible.”
According to his colleague, Husni Al-Agil, the incident had an element of farcical chaos about it. After being seized, he tried to fight with assailants. He then managed to open the car door and get away. “The kidnappers, confused, actually reversed their car into another vehicle.” [/restrict]