CAIRO: Thirteen Egyptian Copts held in Libya have been released, Chairman of the Elders Council in the city of Sirte Moftah Marzou told Youm7 Monday. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry considered the Copts kidnapped by an Islamic militia, however Marzou claimed they had entered Libya illegally.
Coptic Orthodox Bishop Paul urged Egyptians not to travel from or to Libya amid the prevailing security disturbance there; 20 Egyptian nationals were reportedly kidnapped in the city of Sirte over the past few days, after the release of the 13, the whereabouts of the remaining seven remain unknown.
Bishop Paul told Al-Hayah TV Channel Sunday that he tells all Egyptians living in Libya, especially in Sirte City, “he who travels to Libya now is committing suicide.”
In the past weeks, media outlets have reported an abduction of a number of Coptic Egyptian nationals by Islamist militants in Libya. Three Egyptian Copts, who were kidnapped in December 2014, were killed by their assailants.
The spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Badr Abdel Atty declined to declare a total number of Egyptians kidnapped in Libya.
According to media reports, 13 of the total 20 kidnapped were taken by Asnar al-Shariaa militant group, while the other seven were claimed to be abducted by Fagr Libya Islamist group in Sirte.
In a phone interview, Bishop Paul praised efforts exerted by different Egyptian authorities to tackle the crisis, to follow-up with the families of the kidnapped and the Church to inform them of developments to the situation. Officials at the ministry have reacted to victims’ families protesting outside the ministry’s headquarters.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies in the country are operating [on the crisis] under very difficult circumstances due to the disturbed situation in Libya…and [for the ministry] to coordinate with the Libyan government is a very difficult matter,” said Bishop Paul.
Following up on the case of the kidnapped Egyptians, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi ordered the establishment of a crisis center that would include a number of ministers and representatives of security agencies assigned to contact the Libyan side to secure the lives of the kidnapped, according to a Monday statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Abdel Atty told The Cairo Post that a possible ban of Egyptians from traveling to Libya is being studied, as well as other alternative solutions.
The Egyptian embassy in Tripoli was targeted by a car bomb in November amid rising tensions and security lapse in Libya during the past few months, due to prolonged conflict between two Islamist militias.
The conflict between the two groups escalated in August 2014, prompting the Egyptian side to halt flights to and from Libya, and to coordinate with the Tunisian side to faciliate the evacuation of Egyptian nationals in Libya. Such urgent evacuations for Egyptians living in Libya also took place in 2011, following security unrest in the aftermath of the Arab spring that re-ignited in Libya in February of this year.