Militiamen in Tripoli, Libya (illustration)
Militiamen in Tripoli, Libya (illustration) Reuters

Egypt has evacuated its staff from its embassy in the Libyan capital and the consulate in Benghazi city after kidnappers seized Egypt’s cultural attaché and three other embassy diplomats, an official told Al Arabiya on Saturday.

A spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry told the network that “formal relations [between Egypt and Libya] are continuing, but the staff was evacuated from Egypt’s embassy in Tripoli and the consulate in Benghazi as temporary security measure.”

It is believed that the kidnappings were a response to the arrest in Egypt of Shaaban Hadiya, a prominent former rebel commander who fought in the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

Ati told Al Arabiya that Hadiya, who was arrested in Egypt on Friday, will be released only investigations prove that he wasn’t involved in any criminal offence.

A spokesperson for the kidnappers demanded the release of Hadiya, also known as Sheikh Abou Obaida, in a conversation with Al Arabiya.

One of the kidnappers identified himself as “one of Libya’s rebels,” and confirmed that “the diplomats will not be released unless Abou Obaida is released.”

Libya’s foreign minister condemned the kidnappings, reported the network.

Meanwhile, the Libyan parliament condemned the arrest of Hadiya and urged Tripoli and the Libyan ambassador to Cairo to mediate closely with the Egyptian authorities in order to release him.

The parliament called on the Egyptian authorities to inform the Libyans of the reasons of the arrest.

Since Qaddafi’s ouster, the government in Libya has struggled to contain militias in control of parts of the country. The militias took part in the uprising that led Qaddafi’s fall in 2011 but have been told by the interim government to disband or join the army by the end of the year.

More than two years after the fall of Qaddafi, independent militias still control large part of the North African country and regularly fight each other. Terrorist groups have taken advantage of the situation and are training fighters on Libyan soil.

The heavy violence in Libya, especially in the capital Tripoli, led to a United States announcement that it would train up to 7,000 members of Libya's security and special operations forces.