JERUSALEM — Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was freed Wednesday after being held for hours by armed men, apparently angered by the U.S. capture Saturday of an accused al Qaida militant, who demanded that he resign.
"I am fine, thank God," Zeidan told reporters after his release. "If the aim of the kidnapping operation was for me to present my resignation, then I won't resign. We are taking small steps, but in the right direction.
Hours earlier, Zeidan was kidnapped just before dawn at gunpoint from the luxurious Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli by armed gunmen and whisked into a waiting vehicle.
The circumstances surrounding Zeidans abduction remain unclear. The gunmen were rumored to have ties to the government's Interior Ministry and questions have arisen about how the two militiamen were able to enter the hotel at 3:30 a.m. without being challenged by the prime minister's security detail.
The Corinthia is known for its tight security. Police cars patrol the parking lot and a checkpoint barrier at the entrance to the parking lot is manned by armed guards in a security vehicle. Visitors must pass through a metal detector at the hotel's main entrance. A military police office is located three minutes away from the hotel.
Zeidan was taken to the Ministry of the Interior where he was being held by the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the Operations Room of the Libyan Revolutionaries, a group that includes members of the former Libya Islamic Fighting Group and included members of the Libyan Shield Brigades and other militias.
Nuri Abu Sahmain, the president of the General National Congress, Libya's Parliament, was the chief negotiator responsible for securing the Zeidan's release.
The revolutionaries who held Zeidan said he was under arrest and accused him of being complicit in the capture of Abu Anas Al Libi, who is under indictment in the United States in connection to the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa. Al Libia was captured by a team of U.S. special forces and CIA and FBI operatives from in front of his house in Tripoli on Saturday.
Only minutes before Zeidans release, acting Interior Minister Sadiq Abdel-Karim, condemned the kidnapping as an attack on Libya and its people. He added that he wanted to assure all diplomats that security in the country was under control and they would be protected like every Libyan citizen.
Forces from the Interior Ministry were accused last year of either being involved in numerous attacks on Sufi shrines in Tripoli and around the country or failing to intervene when the shrines came under attack.
At the same time that Zeidan was kidnapped, the official residence of the Libyan government at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli was raided by gunmen and three members of the General National Congress were kidnapped. There were also reports that the minister of finance, Alkilani Abdel Kareem, may have also been taken away.
Following the abductions, members of the Libyan government were taken to a secure place and put under military guard amidst fears of more kidnappings. Security at government offices was stepped up and even accredited journalists were forbidden from accessing the buildings.
On Wednesday, there was an attempt to kidnap the head of Mizdah local council, Abdel-Hakim Badran, at his offices in Tripoli. Badran was shot in the leg during the attempt.