Egypt says seeking release of six citizens abducted in conflict-ravaged Libya

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Egypt’s government said Friday it was “working around the clock” to secure the release of six of its citizens who were kidnapped in conflict-ravaged Libya.

“The six Egyptians are detained in an illegal immigration center in western Libya,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The six Egyptian Coptic Christians had travelled to Libya across the border from Egypt “with work permits stipulating their presence only in the east of Libya,” it added.

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The ministry said it was “working round the clock” to secure their release and was in contact with Egyptian diplomats based in Tripoli who are pursuing the matter with Libyan authorities.

Lawmaker Mostafa Bakry tweeted Thursday that the six Egyptians had been abducted “about a week ago” and were being held for ransom by “criminal gangs.”

Bakry said the six had only been looking “for work opportunities in construction” when they were kidnapped.

Media outlets close to the Coptic Orthodox Church said the men had been abducted while travelling between Benghazi and Tripoli.

They said the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of $30,000 for each of the six men.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said it had met with the families of the abducted more than once as part of its efforts to gain their release.

Libya has been gripped by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

Since March last year, an administration in Libya’s east backed by military leader Khalifa Haftar has challenged the UN-recognized government of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah in western Tripoli, arguing it has outlived its mandate.

Egypt is one of several countries that back Haftar, while Turkey backs Dbeibah.

After a 2015 video broadcast by the ISIS terrorist group showed the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts in western Libya, tens of thousands of Egyptians working in Libya’s construction, service, agriculture and handicraft sectors fled the country.

Many Egyptians continue to work in the country, however, mainly in construction and agriculture.

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