CAIRO: Egyptian authorities decided Tuesday to close the Al-Salloum border gate along Egypt’s border with Libya until further notice, citing security reasons, Youm7 reported.
The Matrouh Security Directorate received instructions to completely halt traffic across the border starting Tuesday, until security is restored in Libya, Matrouh’s security chief, Al-Anani Hammouda, said.
“Maritime traffic, cargo transport and fair trade movement between the two countries will proceed normally,” Hammouda, added.
The decision comes after dozens of Egyptian truck drivers were abducted Thursday by armed men in Libya territory who demanded the release of their relatives detained by the Egyptian authorities.
Gamal Aun, the head of truck drivers in Kafr al-Sheikh, told Al Masry Al Youm that at least 350 drivers have been taken hostage by militant forces in Libya.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Badr Abdel Atty said the drivers were not abducted and that they were held back after Libyan militias blocked the international road between Tobruk and Ajdabiya in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi.
However, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry was able on Sunday to resolve the issue and free the drivers with their trucks.
According to an agreement signed in March, Egyptians could travel to Libya on Wednesdays and Thursdays while Libyans could enter Egypt on Sundays and Mondays.
Libya witnessed a notable security lapse since the anti-Gaddafi uprising in early 2011.
After Gaddafi was killed in October 2011, Libya witnessed instability with firearms in the hands of several militias that are divided along regional, tribal and political lines.
Tensions between Egypt and Libya have been on the rise recently in light of a string of killings and kidnappings targeting Egyptian nationals.
During the past months, Egyptian expatriates in Libya have been targeted by various political and revolutionary forces.