Libyan PM visits Egypt following kidnapping crisis

AP News
Posted: Feb 01, 2014 12:57 PM

CAIRO (AP) — Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan visited Cairo Saturday amid tensions between the two countries that followed last month's kidnapping of six Egyptians, including diplomats, by Libyan militias.

In a statement, Egyptian presidential spokesman Ehab Badawi says Zidan reassured Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour that the captives, who were released Monday, will be returned safely to Egypt soon.

Unidentified gunmen seized five Egyptian diplomats and embassy employees late Jan. 24 and 25 in Tripoli, in addition to one Egyptian citizen.

The abduction came hours after Libya's state news agency reported the arrest of a revolutionary militia commander, Shaaban Hadiya, in Egypt. Hadiya was at a force called the Revolutionaries Operation Room, which was blamed for the abduction of Zidan last year. It claims to answer to the army but is widely seen as operating independently.

Hadiya and the Egyptians were let go in a coordinated swap, officials said.

The kidnapping marked a low point in relations between Egypt and its western neighbor since the civil war that removed former Libyan President Muammar Gadhafi 2011. In the hours following the abduction, Egyptian authorities prohibited overland travel to Libya, and recalled all embassy staff and their families.

Before the war and the ensuing security vacuum, Egypt and Libya had close relations and strong business ties.

In the meeting Saturday, officials also discussed the trade of illegal weapons from Libya.

Islamist militias in Libya and the abundance of arms left over from the civil war have given Egypt's military leaders cause for worry, as they crack down on militants in the Sinai Peninsula. This week an al-Qaida-inspired group in Sinai said it downed a helicopter, posting a video of a fighter hitting the aircraft with a shoulder-fired missile. The video suggested the group has gained access to more sophisticated weaponry.