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

Five Egyptian diplomats who were abducted by Libyan former rebels were released late Sunday, one of the kidnappers told Al Arabiya.

The Libyan foreign ministry later confirmed that the Egyptian diplomats were freed.

The gunmen kidnapped the diplomats in Tripoli in retaliation for Egypt’s arrest of a top Libyan militia commander, Shaban Hadiya.

Libya had been in talks with Egypt to resolve the hostage crisis, reported Al Arabiya.

One of the kidnappers said they agreed to release the diplomats with “good intentions,” and admitted “responsibility,” acknowledging what they did “was wrong.”

“They [Egypt] can make sure by calling the Libyan interior ministry,” he said.

“The Egyptian government asked us to release the diplomats, then they will release him [Hadiya],” the kidnapper added.

Hadiya also known as Abu Obeida, was not released by Egypt, which on Saturday evacuated its staff from its embassy in the Libyan capital and the consulate in Benghazi following the kidnappings of its diplomats.

The kidnapper defended Hadiya when he rejected accusations that the militia commander belonged to Al-Qaeda.

“Abu Obeida is a Salafist and not part of al-Qaeda,” he told Al Arabiya.

Since the ouster of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, 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.

In October, Libya’s Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, was kidnapped from the Tripoli hotel in which he resides, but was released several hours later.

He was kidnapped by an armed gang associated with Islamist groups that have attacked American embassies in Africa.

Zeidan described his abduction as an attempted coup by his Islamist political rivals, using militias that he said are trying to “terrorize” the government and turn the country into another Afghanistan or Somalia.