Libya's Parliament voted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan out of office on Tuesday after rebels humiliated the Government by loading crude on a tanker that fled from Naval Forces, officials said, in a sign of the worsening chaos in the OPEC member state.
Libyan gunboats later chased the tanker along Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast and opened fire, damaging it, a military spokesman said. Italian naval ships were helping move the tanker to a Libyan government-controlled port, he said. But Italy denied any of its vessels were in the area at the time and the reported firing incident could not be confirmed.
Western powers fear the vast North African state could even break apart with the government struggling to rein in armed militias and tribesmen who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but want to grab power and oil revenues.
Zeidan, a liberal weakened for months by infighting with Islamists, will be temporarily replaced by Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thinni (photo) who was sworn in by Parliament on Tuesday evening.
Zeidan, who came to power in 2012 after Libya's first free parliamentary vote following four decades of quirky one-man rule by Gaddafi, had been facing opposition from Islamists and the public blaming him for Libya's anarchic transition since 2011.
Deputies said they had decided to mount a no-confidence vote after the tanker managed to sail away from Es Sider port, one of three major export terminals the government has lost to rebels.
State prosecutor Abdel-Qader Radwan said later he had banned Zeidan from traveling abroad because he faced an investigation over alleged financial irregularities.
However, Zeidan was in Malta for two hours late on Tuesday on a refueling stop before going to “another European country”, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told state-owned television TVM.
Libya has been trying to rebuild its armed forces since Gaddafi's overthrow, but analysts say they are not yet a match for battle-hardened militias that fought in the eight-month uprising against the veteran strongman.