Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was kidnapped by gunman while at a hotel in Tripoli before dawn on Thursday. The abduction was reportedly a response to a US operation in Libya over the weekend, which resulted in the capture of an al Qaeda operative, Abu Anas al-Liby.
The Libyan government confirmed Zeidan’s kidnapping in a statement, saying, “The head of the government Ali Zeidan was taken at dawn this morning by gunmen to an unknown place for unknown reasons.”
Witnesses who spoke with The Associated Press reported seeing up to 150 gunmen drive up to the Corinthia Hotel and lay siege to the building, where Zeidan lives. After that, a large group headed into the lobby of the hotel, where a few men split off and headed to the 21st floor to detain the Libyan prime minister.
The gunman briefly scuffled with Zeidan’s guards before they took him and led him out of the hotel. Witnesses added that Zeidan didn’t resist. Mohammed Shaaban, the hotel’s security manager, stated that the gunmen showed the hotel’s management an arrest warrant that was reportedly issued by the public prosecutor.
However, the prosecutor’s office didn’t issue a warrant. Reuters reports that the gunmen who kidnapped Prime Minister Ali Zeidan were part of the militia Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, a former rebel faction which was hired by the government to provide security in Tripoli.
A spokesman for the group explained to Reuters that Zeidan was “arrested” after US Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the Libyan government had a role in the capture of Abu Anas al-Liby. After the raid was announced over the weekend, Zeidan attempted to placate Libyans while still keeping ties with the US on good terms.
On Tuesday, the prime minister stated that Libyans accused of crimes should be tried on their own soil. However, he explained that the raid to capture the al Qaeda operative wouldn’t put a damper on relations with the United States. However, it appears his comments didn’t do anything to placate militants.
It is unclear at this time what the gunmen hope to achieve by kidnapping the Libyan prime minister.