Twenty three Egyptian workers who were detained and abused by militias allied to the internationally recognised government in Libya returned to Egypt on Wednesday night, a provincial Egyptian governor said.
The men arrived through Egypt's land border crossing with Libya in the northwestern city of Salloum, Marsa Matrouh, governor Khaled Shoaib said in TV comments.
A video circulated on social media in recent days purportedly showed militias loyal to Libya’s UN-supported Government of National Accord (GNA) abusing a group of Egyptian workers captured in the western city of Tarhuna.
The video showed the Egyptian workers forced to stand barefoot on one leg with their hands raised. The men appeared to be repeating, on an unidentified man’s order, expletives against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Libya's eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Their return came following Egypt's coordination with Libyan authorities to set them free, after strict orders by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to act promptly, the governor said.
TV footage in the early hours of Thursday showed the men with the Egyptian national flag wrapped around them flashing a victory sign aboard their bus.
“We were pulled out of death,” one of the men told a TV reporter.
Their arrival came hours after the Libyan government said it had arrested the culprits behind the detention and mistreatment of the Egyptian nationals and set them free.
The Tripoli-based Interior Ministry said the abuses the Egyptian nationals have been subjected to “contravene laws, norms and ethics”, while vowing to guarantee their “full legal rights”.
The video has provoked widespread outrage in Egypt, with Emigration Minister Nabila Makram saying it "will not pass lightly".
On Tuesday, the United Nations expressed alarm about the “detention and ill-treatment” of the Egyptians, while calling on Libyan authorities to "conduct a prompt investigation".
The Arab League has also denounced the incident.
Libya, which has descended into chaos since the 2011 uprising, has been split between two rival administrations in the east and the west.
Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates and Russia, backs Haftar who is fighting the forces of the UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli, which is backed by Turkey.
Earlier this month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi announced a peace initiative to end the civil war in Libya which proposes a ceasefire and an elected leadership council.