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
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1521 GMT (2321 HKT)
The first human trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine has produced promising results, U.S. scientists said.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen in August abandoned home after address made public.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
HBO -- backing a documentary based on "Going Clear," a book about Scientology and Hollywood -- isn't taking any chances with legal side.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1935 GMT (0335 HKT)
Grandmaster Nguyen Van Chieu has devoted his adult life to spreading the word about Vietnames martial art, Vovinam.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
England cricketer Nick Compton shares insight into "drive and courage" it takes to face fears as top batsman.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1703 GMT (0103 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