Aide to Libyan PM freed a week after abduction from car

TRIPOLI Tue Apr 9, 2013 8:30am EDT

Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (C) speaks during a joint news conference at the headquarters of the Prime Minister's Office in Tripoli March 31, 2013. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (C) speaks during a joint news conference at the headquarters of the Prime Minister's Office in Tripoli March 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ismail Zitouny

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A senior adviser to Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been freed just over a week after unknown abductors snatched him from his car in a Tripoli suburb, the government said on Tuesday.

Since the end of the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, transitional rulers in the oil-producing North African state have struggled to curb lawlessness on the part of militia groups who refuse to lay down their weapons.

Mohammed al-Ghatous, in his 50s, was seized after passing a checkpoint to the eastern Tripoli suburb of Tajoura while returning from the central coastal city of Misrata on the evening of March 31.

Ghatous, an adviser and head of the premier's office, had last spoken to his family by mobile phone from his car before he was taken.

"Mohammed al-Ghatous returned safely to his home and family yesterday evening," a statement posted on the prime minister's website said. "We would like to thank everyone who helped in finding him and securing his return."

It gave no further details about Ghatous' whereabouts for the last week or how he had been released.

At a midday conference on Monday, Zeidan had told reporters that Ghatous' whereabouts remained unknown.

Tension has risen between the government and militias in the last few weeks since the launch of a campaign to dislodge armed groups from public buildings they occupy in Tripoli.

On the same day that Ghatous was seized, an armed group controlling a Tripoli prison stormed the justice ministry, an attack the justice minister said took place after the government ordered the group to hand the jail over to the authorities.

(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Ali Shuaib; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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