Gunmen yesterday seized Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in Tripoli and held him for several hours before he was freed.
Zeidan appeared in good health when he arrived at government headquarters after his ordeal at the hands of former rebel militiamen, waving to waiting well-wishers as he climbed out of an armored personnel carrier.
The predawn seizure of Zeidan came five days after US commandos embarrassed and angered Libya’s government by capturing senior al-Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Libi off the streets of Tripoli and whisking him away to a warship.
Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdelaziz said Zeidan had been freed a number of hours after being seized before dawn at his Tripoli hotel.
“He has been freed, but we have no details so far on the circumstances of his release,” Abdelaziz said.
Ironically, Zeidan had moved to the hotel for security reasons.
Libyan government spokesman Mohamed Kaabar told the state LANA news agency that the prime minister had been “freed, not released.”
Moments before news broke of Zeidan’s release, Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Al-Seddik Abdelkarim had vowed that the government would not give in to the demands of the perpetrators of a “criminal act.”
Zeidan, who made no immediate comment when he arrived at government headquarters, went straight into a meeting with his ministers and members of the General National Congress — Libya’s highest political authority.
Ministers had already met in his absence earlier in the day for an emergency session convened after his abduction.
A government statement said Zeidan had been taken “to an unknown destination for unknown reasons by a group” of men believed to be former rebels.
The Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries, comprising former rebels and which had roundly denounced Libi’s abduction and blamed Zeidan’s government for it, said it had “arrested” Zeidan under orders from the public prosecutor.
However, the Cabinet said on its Facebook page that ministers were “unaware of immunity being lifted or of any arrest warrant” for the prime minister.
Later, another group of ex-rebels, the Brigade for the Fight against Crime, said it was holding Zeidan, LANA reported.
The government said it suspected both the Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries and the Brigade for the Fight against Crime of being behind Zeidan’s abduction.