Targeting Egyptian citizens in Libya strains relations
Nabil Fahmy - REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
By MOHAMED ABDEL MEGEED

CAIRO: Al-Azhar issued a short statement on its official website Friday demanding Libyan authorities release and secure the detained Egyptian citizens in Tripoli, who were arrested on March 14 on charges of illegal residency.

Seventy Egyptians were seized and are currently being held by a group wearing military fatigues in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Thursday evening, according to a press statement issued by the foreign ministry on its Facebook page on Friday.

The Libyan Interior Ministry announced that security forces had arrested a number of Egyptian workers for not possessing valid identifications in Ein Zara, Salah el-Din, and Souq el-Gomaa districts in Tripoli.

Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Badr Abdel Atty said in the statement that Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy was working with his Libyan counterpart Mohamed Abdel Aziz to secure the release of the detainees.

The Foreign Ministry repeated its warning to all Egyptians, whether traveling to or living in Libya, to be very cautious, and to travel to Libya only for necessary issues and with valid identification, the spokesperson said.

According to the Libyan Interior Ministry, 46 Egyptian citizens were detained for entering the country legally, Mohamed Fayez Gebril, Libyan ambassador to Egypt, said in a phone call to Alqahera al-Youm TV Channel Friday.

Gebril added that the Egyptian detainees would be released as soon as possible without being harmed, in the Libyan government’s efforts to implement the international agreements to secure its borders.

Egypt-Libya relations have been tense recently, particularly after gunmen kidnapped and killed seven Christian Egyptians in Libya, their bodies found in Benghazi in late February. Earlier that month, dozens of militants detained more than 20 Egyptian drivers in Libya, sparking another crisis in the relations between Cairo and Tripoli. In January, some members of the Egyptian envoy in Libya were kidnapped, which provoked the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to withdraw its diplomats from Libya.

The Egyptian diplomats were released after two days of negotiations, coinciding with the release of Shaban Hedeya, former head of the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Chamber, who was arrested on Jan. 24 by security forces after holding a meeting with Muslim Brotherhood members, the Libya Herald reported.

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