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Official in Cairo says 46 Egyptians held in Libya

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March 14, 2014 02:06 PM EST | AP

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CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian official says 46 Egyptians have been detained in Libya for allegedly living in the country illegally after being rounded up in unclear circumstances.

Ali el-Ashiri, who is an assistant to Egypt's foreign minister for consular affairs, said Friday that officials are trying to free them. Another official initially said armed men seized 70 Egyptians from their home in the Libyan capital of Triploi.

Libya traditionally has hosted a large number of Egyptian workers, who come to work in the country's oil fields and construction industry.

Lawlessness abounds in Libya after dictator Moammar Gadhafi's 2011 overthrow. Six Egyptians, including diplomats, were taken hostage in Tripoli in January but were released days later. In February, seven Egyptian Christians were shot dead in the eastern city of Benghazi.