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Libya Prime Minister Zidan freed after abduction

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan has arrived at his cabinet office after being freed by former rebels who seized him from a hotel earlier on Thursday. Details of the incident remain unclear amid differing reports.

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Libyan prime minister freed

Zidan was shown on Libyan TV arriving at the government headquarters following his release from captivity.

The prime minister was released a few hours after being seized by gunmen in a Tripoli hotel that serves as his residence.

He is expected to address the nation later on Thursday to explain what had happened.

Unclear reports

Neither the circumstances of his abduction nor of his release are clear.

Protesters opened fire at the Interior Ministry building where Zidan was being held to demand that the government-affiliated group release him, according to a Reuters journalist.

Other reports say Libyan forces were involved in the release.

Earlier, Zidan's abduction had been confirmed by the Libyan government on its website, which said those who took him were possibly former rebels.

"The head of the transitional government was taken to an unknown destination for unknown reasons by a group," the statement said.

The government said in its statement that the cabinet and the General National Congress, Libya's top political authority, were dealing with the situation.

Arrest or kidnap?

However, some sources spoke of an "arrest" rather than an abduction.

The Operations Cell of Revolutionaries, a group of former rebels which on principle

reports to the defence and interior ministries, said on Facebook it had seized Zidan "on the prosecutor's orders."

Libya's Prosecutor General's office has however denied issuing any order to arrest Zidan, and called his seizure an "abduction" that would be punished by law.

Zidan's detention appeared to be in retaliation for the Libyan government's alleged involvement in the US capture of a suspected al-Qaeda militant on the weekend.

Zidan was seized hours after he met with the family of the al-Qaeda suspect, Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Abu Anas al-Libi. Al-Libi was captured by US special forces in the capital over the weekend and is now being held in a US warship.

Militants were angered by the capture and accused the government of colluding in or allowing the raid.

Zidan was a long-time opponent of ex-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He was elected to lead the Libyan transitional government last year.

tj/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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