Twelve Egyptian workers were kidnapped by the Islamic State in Libya, the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Islamic State allegedly threatened to kill 15 hostages, including 12 Egyptians and three Tunisian workers. The demands for their release are not yet clear, although they were permitted to contact their families, the son of one of the Egyptian hostages, lawyer Ramy Magdy, told Al-Masry Al-Youm. Magdy added that he notified Egypt’s Foreign Ministry of the case on Monday.
Although Magdy says it is widely believed the hostages were taken by the Islamic State, this has not been confirmed by the group itself.
The daughter of one of the kidnapped workers, Fairouz Magdy, called on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to intervene directly, as she told the privately owned Al-Wafd newspaper that her father went to Libya because he couldn’t find work in Egypt.
The majority of the kidnapped Egyptians are construction workers from Sohag, Daqahlia and Alexandria, who had been in Libya for six months. Those known include Abdallah Thabet from Dar al-Salam, Abdel Hady al-Sid Aly from Sohag, Ghader Tawfiq Hamed from Sohag and Abdel Hamid Mohamed and his brother Mahmoud, also from Sohag, Fairouz Magdy told Al-Wafd newspaper. The names of the other kidnapped workers, including the three Tunisians, remain unknown.
This is not the first time Egyptian workers have been kidnapped in Libya. In December, 20 Egyptians were kidnapped and later released. On their return home in January they were greeted by Sisi, who promised them improved job opportunities.
Many Egyptians move to Libya for work, despite the security risks, due to the lack of opportunities at home. Others cross into the country in an attempt to migrate to Europe via boat. This has resulted in a number of hostage situations amid ongoing conflict between the Libyan military and militant groups in Libya, including the Islamic State.
As many as 1.5 million Egyptians worked in Libya until the 2011 revolution, according to the International Organization for Migration. Hundreds of thousands have returned since, as kidnappings and executions have increased.
Twenty-one Coptic Egyptians were executed by the Islamic State in Libya last year. The group released a video, titled “A Message with Blood,” that showed their alleged beheading on a beach.
After news of the executions broke, Egypt launched a series of airstrikes on Libya in collaboration with the Libyan military, intended to target Islamic State strongholds. Although Libyan and Egyptian authorities claimed the strikes killed 64 Islamic State members and hit 95 percent of their targets, rights groups asserted they resulted in the deaths of a number of civilians.