Libya: Kidnapped Coptic Christians Released

January 6, 2015  

13 Coptic Christian workers from Egypt have been freed after being seized in Libya, an official said Monday, according to the BBC.

On Saturday, eyewitnesses in the northern city of Sirte said gunmen took the Christian men in the middle of the night from a residential compound.

But a tribal leader insisted on Monday that they had been detained by people smugglers, not kidnapped.

The incident was the latest in a series of recent attacks on Egyptian Christians working in Libya.

Local residents said the masked gunmen had separated the Christians from the Muslims before handcuffing them and taking them away in cars.

Muftah Marzuq, head of the council of elders in the coastal city of Sirte, said the men were released after negotiations between the gunmen and local officials.

“The Egyptians were held by a group that deals in illegal people smuggling, because of a dispute involving money and transportation to the Harawa region east of Sirte,” Marzuq was quoted by the BBC as having told reporters.

News of their disappearance emerged when a source close to the government accused Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia of having kidnapped the 13 Christians.

The incident came just a few days after seven other Coptic Christians from Egypt were reportedly abducted at a fake checkpoint in Sirte as they tried to leave the city.

Marzuq made no mention of the earlier kidnapping.

In early December, there was also an attack on the home of an Egyptian Coptic doctor in Sirte, in which he and his wife were killed. Local reports said the couple’s daughter was also found dead after being abducted.

Libya is home to a large community of both Muslim and Coptic Egyptians, with most working in the construction sector.

The country has been plagued by instability and infighting since the toppling of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and independent militias still control large part of Libya and regularly fight each other. Terrorist groups have taken advantage of the situation and are training fighters on Libyan soil.

Egypt evacuated its embassy in Tripoli and consulate in Benghazi last year after kidnappers seized Egypt’s cultural attaché and three other embassy diplomats.

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