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
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT