Libyan Prime Minster Kidnapped by Militia, Released Hours Later

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was briefly kidnapped Thursday morning from his luxury hotel in Tripoli by dozens of armed militia members. The abduction, which lasted about nine hours, was reportedly in retaliation for last week's American-led capture of an alleged al Qaeda member in Tripoli.

The kidnapping took place at about 3 a.m., when the gunmen stormed the Corinthia Hotel claiming to have an arrest warrant for Zeiden.

"More than 100 armed militants came to the Corinthia Hotel in 15 armored cars," said Al Habib al Ameen, Libya's culture minister, told the Associated Press. "They took [Mr. Zeidan] from his room and were willing to take more ministers but thank god they didn't…Mr. Zeidan, like all other Libyan citizens, is not safe."

The militants are reportedly members of the Operations Room of Libya's Revolutionaries, a group set up earlier this by Abu Sneen, a member of Libya's Congress. However, key members of the group, including Sneen, have denied any involvement. From Reuters:

The militia, which was hired by the government to provide security in Tripoli, said it "arrested" Zeidan after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Libya had a role in the capture of Liby, whose real name is Nazih al-Ragye.

"His arrest comes after ... (Kerry) said the Libyan government was aware of the operation," a spokesman for the group, known as the Operations Room of Libya's Revolutionaries, told Reuters. Adding to confusion, Libyan television later carried a denial from the Operations Room that it was involved.

United States officials told the New York Times that Zeidan's own government ordered the kidnapping/arrest after learning that Zeidan had prior knowledge of last week's capture. And regardless of who's responsible, the kidnapping will likely hamper future collaboration between the U.S. and Libya. From the Times:

The prime minister’s kidnapping was the most serious blow yet to the credibility of Libya’s fragile transitional government. And it also could be a grave setback for U.S. efforts to hunt down other terrorist suspects believed to be at large on Libyan soil, including those suspected of a role in the attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

[Image via AP]