Islamic hard-liners held marches in Tripoli on Friday, denouncing the raid and criticizing the government.
The militias originated in the “revolutionary” brigades that fought Gadhafi’s forces. Since his ouster, they have refused to disarm and have mushroomed in size and power. Many have been enlisted by the state to serve as security forces, since the army and police are weak, underequipped and under-paid. But they often continue to act as armed vigilante factions with their own interests, and some follow radical al-Qaida-style ideologies or are believed to have links to the terror organization.
Touting themselves as “revolutionaries,” some have long demanded Zidan’s removal since he once served as an ambassador under Gadhafi. Militias have in the past besieged government buildings and carried out kidnappings — including the abduction last month of the defense minister’s son, apparently to pressure him against trying to rein in the groups.
Zidan appeared on TV alongside members of his government, and warned that “there are those who want to take Libya into the unknown. They want to turn Libya into Afghanistan or Somalia.”
“They claim that I do not love the revolutionaries,” he said, countering that he had veterans of the anti-Gadhafi fight in his Cabinet. “But there are those who have come with guns and bombs to press various individual demands, and I have refused them. They impede the development of the army and police.”
Zidan’s abduction raised alarm among some Libyans over the boldness of the militias. The Revolutionaries Operation Room includes many militiamen who refused to join the military.