Egypt’s Foreign Ministry is investigating the authenticity of pictures purportedly showing the Egyptian abductees in Libya, the Ministry Spokesman Badr Abdel Atty said on Thursday.
Twenty-one Coptic Egyptians were abducted in the Libyan city of Sirte on two separate occasions, only one week apart. Seven were kidnapped on December 31, 2014, while the remaining 14 were captured on January 3.
Pictures allegedly belonging to the abductees went viral on social media websites after they were published by a magazine affiliated with the Islamic State fighters. Those featured in the pictures were clad in orange, a colour usually signalling the captives’ death sentence by the group.
Late on Thursday, Egypt commenced emergency procedures to evacuate all Egyptian nationals wishing to return from Libya, reported state television.
Islamic State fighters have gained control of large areas of Iraq and Syria over the past summer.
Several Egyptians had been caught up in the militant fighting gripping Libya, which has recently intensified in measures unprecedented since the overthrow of late Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Many Egyptians have been killed, while others found themselves the victims of kidnapping.
Unidentified assailants killed a Coptic Egyptian doctor and his wife in Sirte and kidnapped their daughter on December 23. The body of abducted teenage daughter was later found.
The foreign ministry constantly reiterates its warning to all Egyptians residing in Libya, calling on them to avoid any conflict areas. It also keeps renewing its travel alert to the neighbouring country, urging those travelling to Libya to secure a visa from the Libyan embassy prior to their travel.