Egypt military reinforces Libya border and helps evacuate Egyptians

AFP, Reuters and Gilane Magdi, Tuesday 22 Feb 2011

Egypt's new military rulers send reinforcements following Gaddafi's violent crackdown on protesters

Egypt military reinforces Libya border and helps evacuate Egyptians

Some 10,000 Egyptians are waiting to cross the border from Libya to flee the violent uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's regime, a security source told AFP on Tuesday.

Two Egyptian military aircraft have meanwhile arrived in Tripoli to help evacuate Egyptians from the Libyan capital, the source added.

"The army has sent extra units to ensure security along the northern frontier with Libya at the Soloum border crossing and to allow Egyptians fleeing Libya to safely return," the source said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit on Tuesday called on Tripoli to swiftly issue permits for flights into Libya. He said that runways at Benghazi airport had been destroyed in the turmoil.

Large numbers of Egyptians work in Libya, where an unprecedented uprising against Gaddafi has been inspired in part by protests in Egypt and Tunisia that triggered the downfall of those nations' longtime rulers.

Egyptian Osman El-Sheemy, Arab Contractors board of directors member in Libya, says "The situation is very bad in Libya. Our work there is divided over four areas but the city of Tabrok is where we suffered the greatest losses. The equipment and machines have been locked inside the camp together with 70 Egyptian workers and engineers for one whole day.

"The 11m Libyan dinars (LE46.5m) worth of equipment were later burned and the workers were kicked out and evacuated to the borders. The workers arrived in Egypt on 20 February."

Egypt's new military rulers reinforced their border with Libya on Tuesday and opened the frontier round-the-clock to thousands fleeing the turmoil unleashed by the revolt against the Libyan leader.

The Cairo government has declared Libya responsible for the safety of its citizens after Gaddafi's son, Saif Al-Islam, accused Egyptians of involvement in the turmoil an accusation Egypt said was made "without any clear basis".

"We know there are about 1 million to 1.5 million Egyptians in Libya, therefore we recommend to our citizens that you stay in your homes, stay off the streets, secure yourselves with water and food," Abul-Gheit said.

The Egyptian military council said on its Facebook page on Monday that Libyan guards had withdrawn from their side of the frontier.

"Members of the Libyan border guard withdrew ... and it is currently in the control of people's committees," Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said in its Facebook message. 

The Libyan side of Egypt's border was controlled on Tuesday by men armed with clubs and Kalashnikov assault rifles opposed to Gaddafi, a Reuters correspondent reported.

One held up a picture of Gaddafi, upside down, and defaced with the words "the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans", the correspondent said from the town of Musaid on the Libyan side of the border.

Moreover, Egypt's army said it had set up camps and two field hospitals near the crossing to receive Egyptians returning from Libya, where there have been increasingly bloody battles between security forces and Libyans revolting against Gaddafi's rule. 

The military council decided to "reinforce the borders with border guards to secure the Egyptian border with Libya and will open the Soloum passage throughout the day for medical conditions and those stuck," a military source said.

Witnesses saw about a dozen Egyptian police trucks going into Soloum, a town on the Egyptian side of the border.

Minibuses crammed with Egyptian expatriate workers were streaming back into the country from Libya. The roofs of the buses were stacked high with bags and blankets.

MENA had reported late on Monday that 4,000 Egyptians had returned from Libya, an oil producing country where they have found work. Those who returned said many others could not make the journey due to shortage of vehicles and fuel.

Two big supply trucks, organised by Libyan expatriate workers from Egypt, were trying to take sugar, potatoes and milk and other supplies into Libya.

The Cairo-based Arab League planned to hold an emergency meeting at the permanent delegate level on Tuesday to discuss Libya.

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