The Libyan interim government is willing to facilitate the return of 13 Coptic Egyptians who were kidnapped Saturday, government spokesman Mohamed Bazzaza said, according to state-run news agency MENA.
An official in the Libyan city of Sirte, Moftah Marzouk, confirmed the release of the 13 Egyptians who were reported to be kidnapped, according to Libyan news portal Al-Wasat.
Marzouk however denied that the Egyptian nationals were kidnapped, and said they were detained by a trafficker over a money related dispute as they were heading to Harawa village east of Sirte.
Over the past week, 20 Egyptians, all of them Christian, were kidnapped in two separate incidents. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced earlier this week that it is in extensive communication with the Libyan government and local authorities in the city of Sirte following the kidnapping.
The ministry has repeatedly issued warnings to Egyptians from travelling to Libya, given the gravity of the security conditions in the restive North African country. It further called on Egyptians currently residing in Libya to find refuge in safe areas away from clashes, and stay clear of militia strongholds.
Libya is currently witnessing ongoing battles between the government and armed militias who are battling for territory and control, leaving scores dead and wounded. This has led to the collapse of the democratic transition process, following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.
These are not the first attacks to occur against Egyptian nationals in Sirte; last month an Egyptian family was killed, including a doctor, his wife and daughter. Additionally, in December, two Egyptian nationals were killed when clashes erupted between military forces aligned with the internationally backed government in Tobruk and militias of Libya Dawn, the Islamist coalition holding sway in Tripoli.
Another two Egyptian workers were killed and four others were injured when a rocket hit a bakery in Benghazi on Saturday.
In September, an Egyptian citizen was shot dead in Sirte after engaging in an argument with two armed men. In July, 23 Egyptian workers were killed in Tripoli after a rocket hit a building housing migrant workers.
Additionally, there have been several incidents involving the abduction of dozens of Egyptian truck drivers in October, 2013 and April and June, 2014.
The increasingly dangerous conditions have forced thousands of people to flee the country in the summer, including hundreds of Egyptian nationals who were evacuated with the help of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.