Egyptian state television reported the release on Tuesday morning of 21 Egyptian fishermen, missing since Saturday in Libya.
There are conflicting reports over whether or not the fishermen were kidnapped by militants or detained when they disappeared from Libya’s coastal city of Misrata on February 14.
Egyptian state media and authorities reported their kidnapping. According to Al-Ahram, the militant group Islamic Dawn kidnapped the fishermen.
Ahmed Nassar, the head of the Fisherman’s Syndicate previously stated during a television appearance on the Al-Hayah channel that the Fajr Libya group was responsible for kidnapping the fishermen as they were attempting to return to Egypt from Libya. He added that seven of the fishermen were kidnapped a month and a half ago and 14 more were kidnapped at a later date.
However, the Libyan government’s department for illegal immigration said the fishermen “were disappeared,” which privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper speculated could mean they were fishing without the necessary permits and were picked up by the Libyan authorities.
Sky News Arabia reported that the head of illegal immigration in Libya, Moftam al-Baqr, confirmed that the fishermen were detained not kidnapped. He stated that seven of the Egyptian fishermen were detained in the Immigration and Nationality department in Misrata, while the others were being held in Tripoli.
Egypt’s Agriculture Minister Adel al-Beltagy stated to Al-Ahram that the fishermen were released following negotiations between the Egyptian state and Libyan authorities. Beltagy said that the fishermen have left Misrata in Northwest Libya and are on route to Egypt.
According to state television, preparations are underway in Saloum, a city in the district of Marsa Matrouh, to receive the fisherman.
The news of the fishermen’s disappearance followed the release of a graphic video by the Islamic State in Libya showing the deaths of 21 Coptic Egyptians who were kidnapped.
Egypt launched airstrikes against Libya in retaliation for the killings early on Monday morning. The airstrikes reportedly killed 64 Islamic State members and hit 95 percent of the intended targets, as reported by the Libyan military spokesperson Mohamed Hegazy. However, a statement from the New York based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday suggested that six civilians had also been killed in the airstrikes, including three children.
The strikes targeted mansions belonging to the ousted Libyan President Muammar Qadhafi’s regime in the eastern city of Derna, which allegedly sheltered Islamic State members. The Libyan Air Forces commander Saqr Geroushi stated that the airstrikes were planned in coordination with the Libyan military and that there were no civilian casualties.