Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan arrived at government headquarters in Tripoli on Thursday, shortly after he has been freed by former rebels who seized him from a hotel earlier on the day.
Several government ministers and members of the General National Congress (GNC) - Libya's highest political authority - welcomed Zeidan at the gates of the compound as he got out of an armored personnel carrier amid exceptional security measures.
The premier seemed in good health after his ordeal and waved to a waiting crowd of well-wishers.
He appeared live on television during a cabinet meeting where he thanked some rebels who helped his release, urging them to join the regular armed forces, according to Reuters.
“Libyans need wisdom ... not escalation ... to deal with this situation,” he was quoted as saying by the agency.
Zeidan was seized by a group of former rebels and was held at the Interior Ministry’s anti-crime department, according to Reuters.
The group, which in principle reports to the defense and interior ministries, said on its Facebook page it had seized Zeidan “on the prosecutor’s orders.”
The premier “was arrested under the Libyan penal code... on the instructions of the public prosecutor,” the group said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Libya’s general-prosecutor’s office, however, denied reports that it issued an order to arrest Zeidan, in comments made to Al Arabiya.
The former rebels claimed that they seized the prime minister because of his government’s role in the U.S. capture of a top al-Qaeda suspect in the Libyan capital on Saturday.
“His arrest comes after the statement by [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry about the capture of Abu Anas al-Liby, after he said the Libyan government was aware of the operation,” a spokesman for the group, known as the Operations Room of Libya's Revolutionaries, said, according to Reuters.
Earlier on in the day, the Libyan government issued a brief statement on the incident.
“The head of the transitional government, Ali Zeidan, was taken to an unknown destination for unknown reasons by a group” of men believed to be former rebels, the official statement said.
Zeidan was taken on Thursday morning, after gunmen stormed a hotel he was residing in in Tripoli.
Guards at the Corinthia Hotel said gunmen had taken Zeidan from the hotel but there were no shots fired or clashes during the incident.
Al Arabiya television channel has also showed video stills of Zeidan frowning and wearing a grey shirt undone at the collar surrounded by several men in civilian clothes pressing closely around him.
British Prime Minister David Cameron gave Britain’s backing to his Libyan counterpart, pledging to help overcome the country’s “security challenges.”
A spokesman for the British prime minister said he had spoken by phone to Ali Zeidan, who was “calm and very measured,” after the kidnapping.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the kidnapping of Zeidan and pledged the United States would continue to work with Libya to bolster its security.
“Libyans did not risk their lives in their 2011 revolution to tolerate a return to thuggery,” Kerry said in a statement according to AFP, welcoming Zeidan’s release.
(With AFP and Reuters)