Egypt says six Copts held in Libya released
Six Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been abducted in western Libya have been released, the Egyptian foreign ministry announced Friday.
"According to information received from our embassy in Tripoli, the six Egyptians detained in Libya have been released," ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said on Twitter.
The ministry had said earlier that it was "working around the clock" to secure the release of the six Egyptians after reports emerged that they had been abducted in the conflict-ravaged country.
It added that they had been "detained in an illegal immigration centre in western Libya" after travelling "with work permits stipulating their presence only in the east of Libya".
Lawmaker Mostafa Bakry tweeted Thursday that the six Copts had been abducted "about a week ago" and were being held for ransom by "criminal gangs".
Bakry said the six had 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 dictator Moamer Kadhafi 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-recognised 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 Islamic State 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.