300 missing Egyptian fishermen return from Libya

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Friday, January 9, 2015

About 300 Egyptian fishermen returned on Friday to their hometown in the Nile Delta province of Kafr al-Sheikh after they went missing while fleeing the war-torn Libyan city of Misrata.

The fishermen, who had fled ongoing armed clashes in Libya on Monday, arrived home two days after they went missing on the Mediterranean Sea due to bad weather, Ahmed Nassar, the head of the fishermen's union in Kafr al-Sheikh said.

"Their arrival was a surprise," Nassar added. "We didn't know they had been found."

The fishermen's union on Wednesday urged Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to dispatch helicopters to search for 10 boats that the missing Egyptian fishermen used to flee Libya.

The recent heavy storm in the Middle East was the reason for the fishermen’s disappearance.

Thousands of Egyptians work in Libya, mainly in the construction and craft sectors, and they have been repeatedly targeted ever since the country descended into chaos.

The Ansar al-Sharia militant group abducted 13 Egyptians on January 3 in the coastal city of Sirte, and seven others were also abducted in the last week of 2014.

With the rise of armed militias enforcing their own law in the absence of central control, thousands, mostly civilians, have been killed in Libya.

Last week, an Egyptian Coptic couple were found dead in their home in Sirte.

Sirte, 500 kilometers (310 miles) east of Tripoli, is in the hands of Islamist militias, including Ansar al-Sharia, which the UN added to its terror list in December over links to al-Qaeda and for running training camps for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) foreign fighters.

Almost four years after a NATO-backed uprising ended Muammar Gaddafi's one-man rule in 2011, Libya continues to struggle with instability as two rival administrations compete for power and warring armed factions skirmish for control of territory across the North African state.

Western military intervention in Libya in 2011 brought with it an influx of weapons, with Gulf Arab states also supplying arms to rebels, many of whom now refuse to hand them over to the internationally recognized government headed by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani.

Last August, Thani and his cabinet were forced to leave Tripoli for the east when militants from Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) seized the capital. The new rulers of Tripoli have set up their own administration, the General National Congress (GNC), which has not been recognized by the United Nations and world powers.

Western powers, who backed the military uprising against Gaddafi in Libya, fear that extremist Islamists, who they armed and trained during the uprising, are seeking to exploit a power vacuum in the oil-producing nation.

The commander of US forces in Africa claimed in December that the US military was allegedly monitoring a nascent effort by ISIS to train a couple of hundred fighters in eastern Libya.

(Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)

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