10 Oct 2013

Libyan PM Ali Zeidan released by gunmen

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been released after being taken by force at a hotel in Tripoli and held for several hours by a group of former rebels.

Former rebel gunmen have freed Libya’s prime minister after holding him for several hours in reprisal for the capture by US forces at the weekend of a Libyan al Qaeda suspect in Tripoli.

Reports from the scene said protesters opened fire at the building where Ali Zeidan was being held, demanding that the group free him.

“The prime minister has been released,” a government official confirmed.

After his release, Mr Zeidan spoke by phone with his UK counterpart. David Cameron’s spokesman said the prime minister had promised UK support to help build a “stable, free, peaceful and prosperous” Libya.

Snatched at gunpoint

A government statement earlier today had declared; “The head of the government Ali Zeidan was taken at dawn this morning by gunmen to an unknown place for unknown reasons”.

The group of former rebels said they seized Prime Minister Ali Zeidan because of his government’s role in the US capture of a top al Qaeda suspect in the Libyan capital.

Read Lindsey Hilsum’s blog: “The PM was kidnapped? This is something of a norm”

“His arrest comes after the statement by John Kerry about the capture of Abu Anas al-Liby, after he said the Libyan government was aware of the operation,” a spokesman for the group, known as the Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, said.

Mr Zeidan is in “good health and will be treated well as a Libyan citizen,” and is being held at the Interior Ministry’s anti-crime department, an official with the department told the state news agency.

The former rebels were working for the Interior Ministry to provide security in the capital.

Guards at the hotel said no shots were fired and there were no clashes during what the gunmen called an “arrest”.

Libya summoned the US ambassador for questioning on Monday over the weekend capture of a suspected al-Qaeda leader by US troops on Libya territory.

Anas al-Liby was wanted over the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, prime minister.

Mr Liby’s son had claimed that his father was captured by masked gunment, some of whom were Libyans – believing the government had played a role in the operation.

Ali Zeidan had said ties between the two countries would not be affected by the incident.