By George Grant.
Tripoli, 19 July:
Demonstrators gathered outside the prime minister’s office today demanding action from the government to secure the release . . .[restrict]of Nabil Elalem, president of the Libyan Olympic Committee, who was abducted from his car by armed gunmen on Sunday.
With less than a week to go until the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games, both the identity of Elalem’s captors and his whereabouts remain unknown.
Libya is sending five athletes to the games, which begin on 27 July, and Elalem had been due to fly to London as part of the delegation this week.
“We still have no idea what’s going on”, said Aladdin Boashi, one of the trainers of Libya’s Olympic weightlifters present at the demonstration.
“We went to the Interior Ministry to try and get some information, and they told us that nobody has an answer”.
There has been speculation that the abduction was deliberately timed to maximise disruption ahead of the London Olympics and that Elalem may have been captured on account of his past associations with the Qaddafi regime.
Elalem, a former Libyan judo champion, served as deputy-president of the Olympic Committee prior to last year’s uprising, reporting directly to Mohammed Qaddafi, the eldest of the dictator’s seven sons.
“We heard that some members of a security brigade previously contacted him wanting to conduct an investigation”, said Emad Al-Shawash, a former professional footballer with Tripoli’s Medina Club.
“We don’t believe that the government is directly involved, but this may have been the work of some renegade brigade under the Interior Ministry”.
Yesterday, the prime minister’s official spokesman, Nasser Al-Manaa denouncing the abduction as a “criminal act” and calling on Elalem’s kidnappers to release him without delay.
The spokesman declined to give any further details about the status of government enquiries, however, except to say that an “investigation by the Interior Ministry is underway and it will announce full details in due course”.
Elalem’s abduction has caused widespread anger and concern both in Libya across the sporting world. The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge has been in contact with counterparts in Libya to offer his support.
“We received a letter from Jacques Rogge saying that he was beside us at this difficult moment and that the IOC would do all it could to help secure our president’s release”, said Haffed Gritly, director of the Libyan Olympic Committee.
Today, a delegation of committee members along with other sportsman met with Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib to discuss the kidnapping.
“He didn’t give us any new information”, said Arafat Jwan, president of the Olympic committee’s secretariat. “He made promises only. “However, we are hoping we might hear something shortly, perhaps as early as this evening”.