Libyan PM freed after several hours held by militia
(AFP) Gunmen seized Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in Tripoli Thursday and held him for several hours before he was freed, in the latest sign of Libya's lawlessness since Moamer Kadhafi was toppled in 2011.
The premier 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 armoured personnel carrier.
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.
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 stated.
Ironically the premier had moved to the hotel for security reasons.
Government spokesman Mohamed Kaabar told the state LANA news agency that the premier had been "freed, not released." He did not elaborate on how he had been freed.
Moments before news broke of Zeidan's release, Deputy Prime Minister Al-Seddik Abdelkarim had vowed that the government would not give into the demands of the perpetrators of a "criminal act".
"The government will not give in to blackmail by anyone," he said.
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 (GNC) -- 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.
But the cabinet said on its Facebook page that ministers were "unaware of immunity being lifted or of any arrest warrant" for the premier.
Later, another group of ex-rebels, the Brigade for the Fight against Crime, said it was holding Zeidan, according to the official LANA news agency.
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.
The two groups loosely fall under the control of the defence and interior ministries but largely operate autonomously.
Two years after the revolution that toppled Kadhafi, Libya's new authorities are struggling to rein in tribal militias and groups of former rebels.
A country awash with weapons
Many Libyans blame political rivalries for the problems plaguing a country awash with militias and weaponry left over from the 2011 rebellion.
Zeidan, who was named prime minister a year ago, had on Tuesday condemned the US capture of Libi in Tripoli and insisted that all Libyans should be tried on home soil.
The GNC has demanded that Washington "immediately" hand back Libi, claiming his capture was a flagrant violation of Libyan sovereignty.
Libi -- real name Nazih Abdul Hamed al-Raghie -- was on the FBI's most wanted list with a $5-million (3.7-million-euro) bounty on his head for his alleged role in the 1998 twin bombings of two US embassies in East Africa.
He is reportedly being held aboard a US Navy ship in the Mediterranean.
US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday Libi was involved in plots that killed hundreds of people and would be brought to justice.
Public anger in Libya is growing as widespread violence, including political assassinations, proliferates -- particularly in the east of the country.
A number of foreign missions have come under attack in Tripoli and in the eastern city of Benghazi.
On September 11, 2012, four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed when militants swarmed into the US consulate in Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 revolution.