By Amro Hassan
5:55 AM PST, January 27, 2014
CAIRO -- Five Egyptian diplomats in Libya have been freed following their abduction at the hands of a Libyan militia group, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said Monday, ending an episode that pointed up the weakness of Libya’s central government and the power of its armed factions.
According to Egypt's state news agency, MENA, three of the freed diplomats had already made their way back to Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and two others were en route Monday afternoon.
Four of the officials were taken from their homes on Saturday; another was seized on Friday, officials said. After being abducted, they had been taken to an undisclosed location outside the capital.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told Egypt’s Tahrir television that the abductions were carried out by the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room, or LROR, after the arrest of its leader, Shaaban Hediya, whom Egyptian authorities said had illegally entered the country on Friday.
The group announced on its Facebook page that Hediya -- allegedly affiliated to Al Qaeda -- was released by Egyptian authorities and was on his way back to Tripoli. Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Abdel Razak Gradi, had earlier confirmed that the diplomats were seized in retaliation for Hediya's capture, the Reuters news agency reported.
The abductions prompted Egypt to temporarily withdraw its consular and embassy staff in Libya, including Ambassador Mohamed Abu Bakr, as a precautionary measure.
The LROR is a militant group that took part in the fighting against strongman Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in 2011 and is currently represented in Libya's ruling General National Congress. Last July, it was entrusted by the Libyan parliament with securing Tripoli.
It made headlines last October when it took part in the short-lived kidnapping of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who called it an attempted coup.
Hassan is a special correspondent.
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