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Egyptian hostages released in Libya, says army - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this file photo taken on Friday, August 16, 2013, Egyptian army soldiers take their positions on top and next to their armored vehicles while guarding an entrance of Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

In this file photo taken on Friday, August 16, 2013, Egyptian army soldiers take their positions on top and next to their armored vehicles while guarding an entrance of Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that the army’s leadership had succeeded in securing the release of dozens of Egyptian hostages in Libya.

A source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said “instructions by army commander, General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, and his good relations with the Libyan side, have led to the release of around 70 Egyptians held by Libyan armed men since last Friday in the Libyan city of Ajdabiya.”

Meanwhile, Staff Colonel Ahmed Mohamed Ali, Egyptian military spokesman, said “the military intelligence and reconnaissance administration…has succeeded in resolving the crisis of the kidnapped drivers after taking all necessary measures to coordinate with the Libyan authorities, following instructions from General Sisi, about the importance of resolving the issue and the return of the drivers.”

The armed forces congratulated the drivers’ families about their safe return and thanked the Libyan Defense Ministry and the security forces who helped resolve the crisis.

Ambassador Badr Abdelati, spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, said “communications between the two sides continued at political and security levels with the Libyan security forces, and at Libyan tribal leaders’ level regarding the kidnapping of the drivers and the seizure of their lorries.”

Meanwhile, the chief of security in Matrouh province said that the Libyan border would remain closed for security reasons.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Egypt’s decision to close the border point for Egyptians aiming to enter Libya was still in force, to avoid exposing Egyptians to the danger of kidnap and assault from armed militias there, and due to the lack of stability in the security situation in Libya.”

He added that “the Salloum border point was closed to travel for Egyptians and Egyptian commercial goods lorries.”

Meanwhile, Libyan security sources said that the situation began when armed men from seven tribes, mostly from the Zawiyah Brigade in Ajdabiya, 40 miles west of Benghazi, detained the 70 Egyptian truck drivers, as well as the drivers of several small buses and cars, demanding Egyptian authorities release 15 Libyan prisoners held in Egyptian prisons. The incident took place on the Tubruq international highway near Ajdabiya.

Libyan sources, who confirmed the release of the kidnapped Egyptians, added that “a meeting of local officials in Ajdabiya, held on Sunday, contributed to reaching a suitable way to release the drivers, and that the meeting included officials from the National Security Directorate in Ajdabiya, in addition to the city’s local council and dignitaries of a number of tribes and a number of Libyan civil society institutions.”

The agreement stipulated that the Egyptians would be released on condition that the Libyan government contact the Egyptian authorities to obtain information on the nature of the cases against the Libyan prisoners, facilitate visits by their families, and to discuss with the Egyptian government an agreement allowing the prisoners to serve their sentences in Libya.

According to local reports, the kidnappers said the Libyan prisoners were held when they strayed into Egyptian territories while on a hunting trip in the desert.