TRIPOLI, Libya (CNN) — Rebels have kidnapped Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan and taken him to an undisclosed location, his spokeswoman told CNN early Thursday.
Armed rebels escorted the prime minister from the Corinthian Hotel in Tripoli into a convoy of waiting cars, said a hotel clerk.
The witness reported no gunfire during the incident.
Zidan’s office initially called the abduction a “rumor” on its official Facebook page. Then it posted a note that said it was “coerced by kidnappers to deny the report.”
Libya militias have run rampant since the revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
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.
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 in Libya.
Gangs of armed men have surrounded key ministries, including justice and foreign ministries, trying to force out members of the government.
Libyan Justice Minister Salah Marghani was forced to evacuate his ministry after it was surrounded by armed militias in April.
The nation continues to struggle to rein in militia groups that continue to menace the country. Libyan intelligence services have said the country is increasingly militant, and is becoming a safe area for al Qaeda to regroup and regenerate itself.
The huge amount of weaponry left over in the country is 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.