35 Egyptians held by Libya militants: Reports

Rami al-Khouli, a resident of Egypt's central Beni Soueif province, told The Anadolu Agency that his cousin, Mahmoud al-Khouli, was being held in Libya along with 34 other Egyptians

CAIRO (AA) – Unconfirmed reports have suggested that 35 Egyptians have recently been abducted by as-yet-unknown militants in Libya.

Rami al-Khouli, a resident of Egypt's central Beni Soueif province, told The Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that his cousin, Mahmoud al-Khouli, was being held in Libya along with 34 other Egyptians.

"I received a phone call from Mahmoud last night during which he told me that he – and 34 other Egyptians – had been detained by Libyan assailants," al-Khouli said.

"I have since tried to call him back, but there was no answer," he added.

One day earlier, the Libyan Herald, a private online daily, likewise reported that at least 35 Egyptian workers had been abducted by gunmen in parts of eastern Libya controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis militant groups.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials could not be reached for comment on the reports.

Earlier Tuesday, Egyptian state television reported that 21 Egyptian fishermen held in neighboring Libya for the last several months had been released.

The broadcaster said the fishermen's release had been secured through "the efforts of the [Egyptian] government."

It did not, however, say who had been holding the captives or provide their current whereabouts.

On Monday, the Egyptian army carried out a series of airstrikes against ISIL targets in eastern Libya.

The airstrikes came only hours after a video appeared online showing the execution – purportedly by ISIL militants – of 21 Egyptian Christians who had travelled to Libya for work.

Fractious Libya has remained a source of concern for neighboring Egypt since it descended into chaos following the 2011 ouster and death of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

Last month, the Egyptian government – citing security concerns – banned citizens from travelling to Libya via Libyan Airlines.

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