By Libya Herald staff
Benghazi and Tripoli, 19 October 2013:
As Egyptian diplomats set up a crisis centre at their Benghazi consulate this . . .[restrict]afternoon, confusion continued to reign as to who really kidnapped a group of Egyptian truck drivers on Thursday, their precise location and even the number of truckers and vehicles involved.
A man calling himself Ahmed and claiming to be the head of a militia battalion was reported to have said in a satellite phone call to an Egyptian broadcaster, that he was holding 80 people. They were being well looked after, he said, and hopefully would be released within 48 hours. Yet AFP quoted from an article carried today in the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm in which an “Ahmed Al-Libi” said he was holding 50 Egyptian drivers. He said that he would kill them and kidnap more Egyptians unless some Libyans detained in Egypt were released within ten days.
It is has been said that the Egyptian authorities have been given a list of 13 names. The government in Cairo has appealed to Libya to help in the location and release of the abducted truckers. Yet it is not clear who the detained Libyans are. Early reports that they were purely Islamists, seeking the freedom of Libyan Muslim Brotherhood members, have been succeeded by some sources insisting that the kidnappers and those they want released in Egypt are smugglers.
Some credence was given to this by the closure of the Egyptian side of the Salloum crossing to Egyptian trucks and passengers going in to Libya. The security director at Mersa Matrouh, Major Anani Hamouda was quoted as saying that non-Egyptians could pass freely in either direction and Egyptians could cross the border for Libya “in order to preserve their lives”.
Yet Shawky Sharif, media advisor to Egypt’s Presidency of the Council of Ministers said today that there was no travel ban to Libya for Egyptians.
The confusion also extends to where the kidnapping took place and where the Egyptian truck drivers might now be held. It has been widely reported that the attack took place near Ajdabia, an area largely controlled by units of the Petroleum Facilities Guard who are loyal to Ibrahim Jadhran. The PFG has been blockading eastern oil terminals in a wide-ranging dispute with the Zeidan government.
A spokesman for Jadhran contacted by the Libya Herald this evening insisted that the Egyptian drivers had been intercepted 200 kilometres east of Ajdabia, “closer to Tobruk”. If correct, this would place the attack about half way along the 412-kilometre B11 highway, which runs in an almost straight line between the two cities, cutting out the old and far-longer coastal route through Benghazi and Beida. Such a location might be near Baltat Al-Maqtu, the junction with a road that runs south from Zawiyat Al-Mukhayla.
Robberies and kidnappings are not unknown on the long and isolated B11. However the majority of kidnappings involves ransoms. [/restrict]