Skip to main content

Libya prime minister: Kidnapping was an attempted 'coup'

By Nic Robertson. Yousuf Basil and Chelsea J. Carter, CNN
October 13, 2013 -- Updated 0436 GMT (1236 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted from his hotel room
  • He was released by a militia that he says was carrying forged papers
  • Zeidan says the militia claimed to have a warrant for his arrest
  • He calls his abduction a "coup against legitimacy"

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on Friday described his kidnapping this week as an attempted coup carried out by political opponents bent on toppling his government.

Zeidan was abducted early Thursday from a luxury hotel in Tripoli and held for several hours by militia gunmen before being released, an incident that has highlighted the security threat posed by militias that have run rampant since the revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi two years ago.

"I don't believe that 100 cars armed with heavy weapons can surround the hotel and lock it down and create checkpoints to prevent people from passing ... without an order from their leadership," Zeidan said in televised remarks.

"...This was coup, a coup against the legitimacy" of the government.

How Libyan PM's abduction happened

Zeidan blamed political opponents for his abduction, saying they had been trying to take over the government.

He said his abductors identified themselves as members of the Operations Room of Libya's Revolutionaries, a militia group.

Zeidan said his abductors, who forced their way into his room at the Corinthia Hotel before dawn, were carrying forged papers and claimed they had orders from Libya's general prosecutor.

The five-star hotel that Zeidan calls home is popular among government officials, some of whom reside there, including the justice minister.

He said the gunmen entered a number of hotel rooms belonging to diplomatic and international missions.

"They entered my room forcefully and took me, and I couldn't stop them," Zeidan said, adding that they ransacked his room.

He said they took documents and his computer.

In remarks to a Cabinet meeting broadcast on Libyan state TV on Thursday, Zeidan said he did not want to see the situation escalate and urged Libyans to show "wisdom."

But the Operations Room of Libya's Revolutionaries said it merely detained him over financial and administrative corruption charges.

However, the Justice Ministry said there was no arrest warrant for Zeidan, calling the move a kidnapping.

The militia works with the Interior Ministry -- a not altogether uncommon practice in Libya, which has tried unsuccessfully to rein in the many militia groups. Instead, various ministries have teamed up with them for their own needs, including providing security services.

Armed militias have roamed the country largely unchecked since the 2011 ouster of Gadhafi.

Gangs of armed men have surrounded key ministries, including the Justice Ministry, trying to force out members of the democratically elected government.

Justice Minister Salah Marghani was forced to evacuate after armed militias surrounded his ministry in April.

Libyan intelligence services have warned that the country is becoming a haven for al Qaeda to regroup and regenerate itself.

Numerous weapons left over after Gadhafi's downfall are providing groups with different motivations to form their own militias, government officials said.

CNN's Nic Robertson reported from Tripoli; Yousuf Basil and Chelsea J. Carter from Atlanta. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1818 GMT (0218 HKT)
While aspects of the fighting in Gaza resemble earlier clashes, this time feels different, writes military analyst Rick Francona.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1438 GMT (2238 HKT)
The death of an American from Ebola fuels fears of the further global spread of the virus.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Nearly two weeks after MH17 was blown out of the sky, Dutch investigators have yet to lay eyes on the wreckage. How useful will it be now?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
The U.S. and EU are imposing new sanctions on Moscow -- but will they have any effect?
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 0846 GMT (1646 HKT)
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT