LIBYAN PRIME MINISTER Ali Zeidan has been released several hours after being seized from a Tripoli hotel by former rebel militiamen, the country’s foreign minister has said.
“He has been freed but we have no details so far on the circumstances of his release,” Mohammed Abdelaziz told AFP.
The pre-dawn 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.
A source in the premier’s office said Zeidan had been taken by gunmen from Tripoli’s Corinthia Hotel, where he resides. A hotel employee confirmed a pre-dawn raid by “a large number of armed men”.
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.
But the cabinet said on its Facebook page that ministers were “unaware of immunity being lifted or of any arrest warrant” for the premier.
Thursday’s government statement said it suspected both the Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries and the Brigade for the Fight against Crime of being behind the raid that netted Zeidan.
Both groups loosely fall under the control of the defence and interior ministries but largely operate autonomously.
Two years after the revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s new authorities are struggling to rein in tribal militias and groups of former rebels.
Zeidan, who was named prime minister a year ago, had on Tuesday condemned the US raid, where senior Al-Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Libi was captured and whisked him away to a warship.
He insisted that all Libyans should be tried on home soil.
The General National Congress has demanded that Washington “immediately” hand back Libi, claiming his capture was a flagrant violation of the country’s sovereignty.
Many Libyans blame political rivalries for the problems plaguing a country awash with militias and weaponry left over from the 2011 revolution that toppled Kadhafi.
- © AFP 2013.
First published 7.33am