CAIRO: Twenty-one Egyptian fishermen were released Tuesday after being kidnapped last week, the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture announced.
The chairperson of the Egyptian Fisherman’s Syndicate, Ahmed Nassar, announced Saturday evening that the men had been kidnapped by members of Fajr Libya in the northwestern city of Misrata.
Egyptian Minister of Agriculture Adel al-Beltagy confirmed in a statement the release of the Egyptian fishermen; they were released after negotiations between the Egyptian General Authority for Fish Resources Development (GAFRD) and Libyan officials, he added.
The released fishermen have left Misrata and are on their way to Egyptian territory, Beltagy said. He noted that they had been seized due to an “irregularity” committed once they entered Libyan territorial waters, without going into further details.
However, Nassar told “On My Responsibility” talk show Saturday that they had obtained official work documents from the Egyptian Ministry of Manpower and the Libyan embassy in Cairo to work in Libya.
Libyan Department of Anti-Illegal Immigration head Muftaha al-Baqaar told Sky News Arabyia Monday evening that the 21 Egyptian fishermen were not kidnapped but seized, and expressed his willingness to cooperate with Egyptian officials to release them.
He said that seven of the fishermen were arrested in the Department of Immigration and Nationality in Misrata, while the other fishermen were seized in Triopli.
The fishermen’s release comes two days after a video confirmed that another group of 21 Egyptians were murdered by a Libyan branch of the Islamic State group.
The group, all Coptic Christians, had been kidnapped in early January in the city of Sirte, and an IS publication a week before the release of the video showed them wearing orange jumpsuits that other IS prisoners had been forced to wear before execution.
Egypt, in cooperation with the Libyan Tobruk-based government, launched airstrikes Monday hitting alleged IS hotbeds in the cities of Derna and Sirte, and estimated at least 50 suspected IS fighters were killed.