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Libya's justice minister to captors: Free kidnapped Egyptian diplomats

By Leslie Holland and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
updated 9:22 PM EST, Sat January 25, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Libyan minister calls for release of abducted Egyptian diplomats
  • NEW: Minister Salah al-Marghani said the diplomats are guests of Libya
  • Egyptian embassy in Tripoli evacuated
  • Diplomats nabbed Friday

(CNN) -- Libya's justice minister condemned the kidnapping of five Egyptian diplomats, and urged their captors to release them.

Minister Salah al-Marghani said the envoys are guests of Libya and have nothing to do with the recent arrest in Egypt of the head of the Libyan state-funded militia group Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room, or LROR.

Al-Marghani said the Libyan government is in touch with the Egyptian government about releasing the LROR chief.

Al-Marghani's press conference in Tripoli came just hours after the Egyptian embassy in the capital was evacuated.

Saturday's evacuation was in response to the Friday kidnapping of the five diplomats from the Egyptian embassy. The envoys, who were abducted by unknown gunmen, included the administrative and cultural attach├ęs.

A spokesman for the Libyan foreign ministry, Said Al-Aswad, told the Egyptian MENA news agency that the motive behind the kidnapping is still unknown and that Libyan authorities were investigating.

Earlier on Saturday, the Libyan ambassador to Egypt said that the kidnappings could be in retaliation for the arrest of the LROR head, Shaaban Hadiya, also known as Abu Obedia El-Zawy, in Alexandria on Friday.

According to news sources, Abu Obedia's group was responsible for the kidnapping of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan last October.

The Libyan General National Congress (GNC), which is drafting a new Libyan constitution, has demanded Egyptian authorities release Abu Obedia immediately.

Earlier this week, a South Korean trade official as rescued after being taken from his car in the coastal capital last Sunday. His kidnappers were detained, authorities said.

Libya's government and fragile state security forces are struggling to impose law and order in a country awash with weapons left over from the 2011 war that ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

CNN's Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

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