File photo of Egyptian fishing boat (Photo:Al-Ahram Arabic website)
Reports that 21 Egyptians fishermen were kidnapped in Misrata are false, a member of Misrata's elected municipal council Ahmed Aghkhia told Egyptian state news agency MENA on Sunday.
The claim was made on Saturday by the head of Egypt's fishermen's syndicate in Kafr El-Sheikh – a Nile Delta governorate which borders the Mediterranean. Aghkhia said the claim has no basis in fact.
Misrata lies 200 km to the east of Libyan capital Tripoli and has a major seaport. The city has been largely immune from most fighting in Libya so far, apart from occasional airstrikes by the internationally recognised government against rival groups controlling it.
The abduction of fishermen was reported in the wake of increased fears that 21 Coptic Egyptians, kidnapped late last year in Libya’s Sirte, were executed by Islamic State (IS) militants.
Undated photos published in the latest edition of a magazine affiliated to the extremist group showed captive workers handcuffed and wearing orange-colored jumpsuits often donned by Islamic State (IS) prisoners about to be executed by the jihadists.
On Friday, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said the fate of the 21 workers remained unknown, but the authorities were doing their best to communicate with all parties in Libya.
Thousands of Egyptians work in Libya, a key destination for Egyptians from rural areas, mainly in the construction and craft industries.
Egypt's government has repeatedly warned in recent months against any travel to Libya and advised those residing in the North African country to stay away from areas of tension.