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Officials: 3 Egyptians abducted in Libya freed

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TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Two Egyptian diplomats and an embassy staff member abducted in Libya have been freed after Cairo released a Libyan militia leader who was arrested last week, officials in both countries said Monday.

The releases took place late on Sunday, according to an Egyptian security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Three Egyptian diplomats still held captive are also expected to be released soon, he said.

The six Egyptians — five diplomats and the one embassy staff member — were seized late Friday and early Saturday in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. No one claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

The abductions came hours after Libya's state news agency reported that Egyptian authorities had arrested Shaaban Hadiya, the commander of a militia known as Revolutionaries Operation Room. The militia claims to answer to the Libyan army but is widely seen as operating independently. Last year, the Libyan government blamed the group for the abduction of Prime Minister Ali Zidan, who was briefly kidnapped by gunmen in Tripoli.

The three released Egyptians are now back at their homes in Tripoli, said Libyan Interior Ministry spokesman Said al-Asswad. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelattie attributed their release to official and "unofficial" mediation. He did not elaborate.

On Saturday, militia spokesman Adel al-Ghiryani told the Associated Press that the group's commander had travelled to Egypt for medical reasons and that he had no idea why Hadiya, also known as Abu Ubeida al-Libi, was detained. He also denied his group was involved in the kidnapping of the Egyptian diplomats.

Kidnappings are rife in Libya, where the 2011 overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi has left a security vacuum.

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Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef contributed to this report from Cairo.

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