UPDATE: Libya's state news agency says Prime Minister Ali Zidan, abducted by gunmen at dawn, has now been freed.
Government Spokesman Mohammed Kaabar told the agency, LANA, that Zidan has been "set free" and was on his way to his office on Thursday.
The brief report gave no further information. Details were sketchy but it appeared Libyan forces had intervened in some way and that the abductors did not free Zidan voluntarily.
Armed rebels have kidnapped Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan from Tripoli’s Corinthian Hotel and taken him to an undisclosed location, his spokeswoman told CNN. A hotel clerk told the network that gunmen escorted Zeidan into a convoy of cars, and Libya’s interim government confirmed the kidnapping on its Facebook page.
"Gunmen kidnapped Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan at dawn Thursday from the luxury hotel he calls home, and took him to an undisclosed location, his office said.
The gunmen escorted the prime minister from the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli into a convoy of waiting cars, said a hotel clerk who was not authorized to speak to the media.
The fiver-star hotel is popular among government officials, some of whom reside there, including the justice minister.
The witness reported no gunfire during the incident, and said the gunmen were respectful and "caused no trouble."
Zeidan'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."
"Zidan's abduction reflected the weakness of Libya's government, which is virtually held hostage by powerful militias, many of which are made up of Islamic militants. Militants were angered by the U.S. capture of the suspected militant, known as Abu Anas al-Libi, and accused the government of colluding in or allowing the raid.
In a sign of Libya's chaos, Zidan's seizure was depicted by various sources as either an "arrest" or an abduction — reflecting how interwoven militias are in Libya's fragmented power structure.
With the country's police and army in disarray, many are enlisted to serve in state security agencies, though their loyalty is more to their own commanders than to government officials and they have often intimidated or threatened officials. The militias are rooted in the brigades that fought in the uprising that toppled autocrat Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, and are often referred to as "revolutionaries."
Zidan was taken along with two of his guards. The guards were beaten, but later released according to an unnamed government official.
The U.S. State Department said it is looking into the reports of the kidnapping, and is in close touch with senior U.S. and Libyan officials.
The U.S. Embassy staff in Tripoli is safe, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.