Libyan Rebel (Sirte)
Libyan Rebel (Sirte) Screen Capture

The Prime Minister of Libya, Ali Zeidan, was released Thursday afternoon, after being  kidnapped early Thursday morning by an armed gang associated with Islamist groups that have attacked American embassies in Africa, according to claims by the group.

The group, the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Chamber, said that the kidnapping, which it termed an “arrest,” came in response to the detaining of top Al Qaeda terrorists Abu Anas al-Liby in Tripoli last weekend. Liby was on the FBI's most wanted list, with a $5 million prize on his head over his role in the bombings of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya in 1998, as well as other attacks. The U.S. has been actively searching for him for 15 years.

In a statement, the group said it had seized Zeidan because the Libyan government “was aware of the operation,” adding that it would keep the Prime Minister imprisoned until al-Liby was released.

On Thursday afternoon, a government spokesperson told Libyan media that Zeidan had been "freed." He gave no other details. Sources in Tripoli said that it appeared that government forces had been involved in the release, and that it wasn't voluntary.

Witnesses said that a group of the gang members had raided Tripoli's Corinthia Hotel, where Zeidan resides, and forced their way into his quarters, and abducted the Prime Minister and two of his guards. The guards were beaten and later released, while Zeidan was spirited away. The Libyan government held an emergency meeting early Thursday to discuss the situation.

In a statement, the U.S. State Department said that it was “looking into these reports and we are in close touch with senior US and Libyan officials on the ground.”