Agence France Presse
Published — Tuesday 6 January 2015
Last update 5 January 2015 10:49 pm
BENGHAZI: Thirteen Egyptian Christians held in Libya have been freed, a tribal leader said on Monday after government sources reported they had been abducted by militants.
However, Muftah Marzuq, head of the council of elders in the coastal city of Sirte, insisted that the 13 had not been kidnapped, but had been detained by people smugglers.
“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 said.
News of their disappearance emerged on Saturday when a source close to the government accused the Ansar Al-Sharia militant group of having kidnapped the 13 Coptic Christians in Sirte.
The source said seven other Egyptian Christians had also been seized over the past few days in Libya.
Marzuq said Sirte city elders negotiated the release of the 13, without giving further details. He also did not mention the other seven.
Thousands of Egyptians work in Libya, mainly in the construction and craft sectors.
They have been targeted as the country has descended into chaos since dictator Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown and killed in the 2011 NATO-backed uprising.