Unidentified assailants abducted a group of 23 expatriate Egyptian workers at gunpoint on Sunday, as the workers’ three-car convey traveled eastwards toward the Egyptian border, having departed from the northwestern town of Masslatta, Libyan news outlets reported.
Representing the most recent occurance of Egyptian expatriates going missing in Libya, the worker’s abduction occured in the northeastern town of Marsa al-Brega, located approximately 200 kilometers west of Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi.
An unnamed source from Egypt’s Foreign Ministry told media outlets that the ministry “will ascertain whether this incident is a case of abduction or detention,” as the exact circumanstances have yet to be made clear. The source noted that there are “dozens of Egyptians who are detained on a daily basis due to their attempted efforts at illegal migration,” while many others are detained “for working in Libya without visas or work permits.”
While the ministry source asserted that most Egyptian nationals detained in Libya for such violations are subsquently released, those kidnapped or held hostage by radical armed elements operating Libya are not always as fortunate.
In February 2015, 21 Egyptian Christians were executed by a Libyan-based group claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, while in April of this year, at least another 12 Egyptians were executed in Libya and several others were reportedly abducted in an incident involving human traffickers.
In June, seven Egyptian workers were kidnapped in the western Libyan city of Misrata and are reportedly still missing.
The numbers of Egyptian nationals currently working or residing in Libya is unknown. However, Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly warned its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the country, particularly to areas witnessing political tension, armed conflict or unstable security conditions amid the absence of diplomatic representation in Libya.
On Monday, the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported that 377 Egyptian nationals had crossed into Egypt from Libya via the Salloum border crossing in the past 24 hours. Deputy Interior Minister Mokhtar al-Senbary is quoted in MENA as saying that 301 of the nationals who returned to Egypt possessed official documentation and permits, while 76 crossed the Egyptian-Libyan border without the necessary entry or departure visa or work permit.
According to a statement issued by Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry received a Libyan parliamentary delegation led Mohamed Shoeib, the first speaker to the speaker of the Libyan Parliament. The delegation consists of Libyan MPs from the Parliment based in the eastern city of Tobruk, which the ruling Egyptian regime recognizes, as opposed to the the parliamentary body based in the Libyan city of Tripoli.
During the meeting, Shoukry “affirmed the united destiny” of the neighboring countries, as well as their “common challenges, especially in light of the growing threat of terrorism and emphasizing that Libya’s security is integrally linked to Egypt’s national security,” asserts the statement.
This statement did not mention the increasing number of incidents of kidnappings and murders of Egyptians in Libya, often in connection to human trafficking networks or organized crime. The statement was also silent on theEgyptian Foreign Ministry’s failure to guarantee the release of hostages and detainees.