(CNN) — Rebels kidnapped Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan at dawn Thursday and took him to an undisclosed location, his spokeswoman told CNN.
Armed rebels escorted the prime minister from the Corinthian Hotel in Tripoli into a convoy of waiting cars, said a hotel clerk who was not authorized to speak to the media.
The witness reported no gunfire during the incident, and said the gunmen were respectful and “caused no trouble.”
Zidan’s office initially called the abduction a “rumor” on its official Facebook page, but later posted an update that it was “coerced by kidnappers to deny the report.”
Libya militias have run rampant since the revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi two years ago.
Militias in the east of the country are demanding more autonomy from the central government, and have severely constrained Libya’s oil output, which is central to its export revenue.
Last month, Zidan said the nation is trying to rebuild after decades under Gadhafi’s rule. He shot down reports that Libya is a failed state.
“We are trying to create a state, and we are not ashamed of that,” Zidan told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “The outside world believes that Libya is failing, but Libya was destroyed by Gadhafi for 42 years, and was destroyed by a full year of civil war. And that’s why we are trying to rebuild it.”
Part of Libya’s rebuilding involves reconciliation and accountability, he said last month.
Security an issue
Rights groups have said security remains a main concern in Libya.
“The main problem affecting both justice and security is that armed militias still maintain the upper hand,” Human Rights Watch said. “They have various agendas — financial, territorial, political, religious — and operate with impunity two years after the Gadhafi regime ended. Successive interim governments have failed to assert control over these militias, preferring to contract them as parallel forces to the army and police.”
Recent attacks have added to the uncertainty.
Gangs of armed men have surrounded key ministries, including justice and foreign ministries, trying to force out members of the democratically-elected government.
Libyan Justice Minister Salah Marghani was forced to evacuate after armed militias surrounded his ministry in April.
The nation continues to struggle to rein in militia groups that menace the country. Libyan intelligence services have said the country is increasingly militant, and is becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda to regroup and regenerate itself.
Numerous weapons left over after Gadhafi’s downfall are providing groups with different motivations to form their own militias, government officials said.
Libya has an interim president, but the prime minister holds all executive powers.
By Nic Robertson, Saad Abedine and Faith Karimi
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