Seized Libyan PM was a former rebel himself

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Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, seized by ex-rebels from a Tripoli hotel early Thursday and later freed, was instrumental in bringing about the downfall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

The 63-year-old career diplomat and former rebel-in-exile played a major role in securing Western support for the successful 2011 uprising that toppled the veteran strongman.

Born in 1950 to a business family, Zeidan grew up in the central town of Waddan but then spent half of his life in abroad, mostly in exile.

After obtaining a degree in humanities in 1975, he joined the Libyan diplomatic corps.

In the late 1970s he was sent to work in Libya's embassy in India, alongside the then ambassador Mohamed al-Megaryef, who became president of Libya's ruling national assembly in the post-Kadhafi era.

In the early 1980s, both Zeidan and Megaryef defected and joined the opposition in exile under the banner of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya.

Still living abroad, Zeidan eventually left the National Front to become a Geneva-based advocate for human rights in Libya.

When the revolt against Kadhafi erupted in February 2011, he played a leading role, along with liberal Mahmud Jibril, in seeking international support for the National Transitional Council, the political wing of the rebellion.

As NTC representative in Europe, Zeidan succeeded in convincing the international community to intervene militarily in support of those battling the Kadhafi regime.

Britain and France led the creation of a NATO no-fly zone in Libya.

On Thursday, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed “great concern” after Zeidan was detained, saying the “stability and the rule of law are very important” in Libya as it seeks to rebuild.

Following Kadhafi's ouster and death in October 2011 at the hands of the rebels, Zeidan was elected to the General National Congress (GNC) in Libya's first ever elections in July 2012.

He presents himself as an independent but is considered close to transition leader Jibril's National Force Alliance.

Because of security problems plaguing the country since Kadhafi's ouster, Zeidan had been living in the Corinthia Hotel in the capital.

The official LANA news agency said he was seized at dawn by an anti-crime unit of former rebels, the Brigade for the Fight against Crime.

In principle, the unit reports to the defense and interior ministries.

Hours later, Zeidan was freed, but it was unclear how.