ISIS Claims Abduction of 21 Egyptians in Libya

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Published Monday, January 12, 2015

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group's branch in Libya claimed the abduction of 21 people, a monitor reported Monday, as Egypt confirmed that 20 of its citizens were being held in the country.

"Urgent. Soldiers of ISIS captured 21 Christian crusaders," the jihadist group said in a statement picked up by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The terse statement, published alongside three pictures showing a group of men, did not specify when they were abducted or reveal their nationality.

Badr Abdul Atti, a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry confirmed to AFP in Cairo that 20 Egyptians had been abducted in two separate incidents in neighboring Libya.

According to Atti, seven Egyptians and 13 others abducted separately in Libya "are still being detained" by their captors.

Atti did not say when they were kidnapped, nor did he specify their religious affiliation.

The ISIS statement follows conflicting reports on the fates of two groups of Egyptian Coptic Christians reportedly abducted in recent weeks.

A source close to the Libyan government said on January 3 that Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia had kidnapped the 20 men in the city of Sirte over several days.

Two days later a tribal source said 13 of the men had been released and had in fact been detained by smugglers, but the information was never confirmed.

The ISIS statement, which does not list any demands for the release of the men, said they had been taken "in various areas of Tripoli Province" – referring to a former administrative region that includes Sirte.

The coastal city of Sirte is in the hands of Islamist militias including Ansar al-Sharia, which the UN last month added to its terror list over links to al-Qaeda and for running ISIS training camps.

More than three years since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in the 2011 NATO-backed uprising, Libya is awash with weapons and powerful militias and has rival governments and parliaments.

Western military intervention in Libya 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.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians work in Libya, mainly in the construction sector, and they have been targeted as the country has descended into chaos.

In February, the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians who had been shot were found near Libya's second city Benghazi, parts of which are held by Islamist militias.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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