Almost 15,000 Egyptians flee Libya from Sallum crossing

Egypt urged the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who work in Libya to leave after ISIS beheaded 21 Copts in Sirte

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Almost 15,000 Egyptians have flocked back home from war-torn Libya, crossing at the Sallum border, state media reported Monday, following the murder of Coptic Christians by ISIS.

Last week Egyptian and Libyan warplanes hit ISIS targets inside Libya after the jihadists released a video on Feb. 15 showing the beheadings of 21 Christians, most of them Egyptian.

Since then Egypt has urged the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who work in Libya to leave, and also chartered planes to ferry many of them home from Tunisia, which also shares borders with Libya

At least 14,585 Egyptians have heeded that call and returned home crossing from the Sallum border post in northwest Egypt, state news agency MENA reported.

MENA said the figure included 3,018 Egyptians who crossed back on Monday alone, but did not specify how many of them were Christian.

A Tunisian transport ministry spokeswoman meanwhile said that at least 1,000 Egyptians who had fled Libya have been airlifted home from her country on planes chartered by Cairo since Friday.

She told AFP that 250 more Egyptians were expected to leave from the southeastern Djerba-Zarzis airport by 1600 GMT.

A Tunisian customs official said that an unspecified number of Egyptians were also waiting on the Libyan side of the border, hoping to cross the frontier.

In July last year, thousands of Egyptians fleeing violence in Libya were stranded for days at the border with Tunisia, as authorities refused to let them in until Cairo had arranged for their transport home.

Tunisia was flooded by expatriates fleeing Libya during the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and struggled to cope with the massive exodus.

Days after the revolt erupted, Egypt had sent military planes to Libya to evacuate up it citizens trapped in the violence.

At the time, officials said 1.5 million Egyptians worked in Libya, mostly in the construction and services industries, and formed the backbone of the expatriate workforce in the oil-rich nation.

Hours after ISIS released the video showing the beheading of the Coptic Christians, Egypt carried out air strikes on ISIS targets inside Libya.

On Sunday President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that 13 IS targets were struck in these raids.

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