Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan freed, hours after being seized by gunmen

A former rebel group claimed it had ‘arrested’ PM Ali Zeidan for allowing US special forces to capture a Libyan terror suspect in Tripoli at the weekend.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is free, government sources said Thursday, hours after he was snatched at gunpoint from a hotel in Tripoli in what reports said was a response to a US raid in the Libyan capital last weekend.

State media reported that Zeidan had been released by 11:30 a.m. local time, though it was not clear where the prime minister was.

He was taken at dawn “by gunmen to an unknown place for unknown reasons,” according to a Libyan government statement cited by Reuters

A group of former rebels with ties to the Interior Ministry, the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Chamber, claimed to have “arrested” him on the orders of the public prosecutor,according to Al Jazeera.

Article continues after advertisement

The group’s spokesman said the move followed reports that Zeidan’s government had allowed United States commandos to capture suspected Al Qaeda operative Abu Anas al-Liby from his home in Tripoli on Oct. 6.

Libya’s Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani, however, has denied that there was any warrant for Zeidan’s arrest. 

As GlobalPost’s Tracey Shelton reported on Oct. 8, Islamists in Libya have threatened blowback for the weekend raid in Tripoli by US forces.

On Monday one group of Misrata youth, including ex-rebel fighters, angrily discussed the raid with Shelton: “If I saw these people [US troops] coming here I would have killed them quickly,” said Absalam Bayou, 19. “We have commanders here. We have weapons. Why didn’t the Americans approach our men and ask him to be handed over for questioning?”

The Libyan cabinet called an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss the crisis. 

Zeidan was being held at the Interior Ministry’s anti-crime department, a department officialtold Libya’s state news agency. He was in “good health and will be treated well as a Libyan citizen,” the official said.

The Libyan Revolutionary Operations Chamber is one of several former militias that the Interior Ministry pays to provide security, according to Bloomberg

The group’s spokesman told Reuters that Zeidan “was arrested under the Libyan penal code,” after US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the Libyan government was informed of the operation to capture Abu Anas al-Liby in advance.

More from GlobalPost: Islamists threaten blowback for US raid in Libya

Article continues after advertisement

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday that “we are looking into these reports and we are in close touch with senior US and Libyan officials on the ground.”

Saudi TV station Al Arabiya showed pictures of Zeidan, dishevelled and frowning, being led away by men in civilian clothes.

Guards at Tripoli hotel where he resided, the Corinthia, confirmed that he had been seized there early Thursday morning. They told Reuters that no shots were fired and no one injured during the incident.

Zeidan has repeatedly appealed to Western allies for help defeating militants who he accuses of attempting to destabilize Libya’s transitional government with attacks on the interior ministry and other state institutions.