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EGYPT: What's the truth behind Libyan border deaths?

December 30, 2009 | 12:14 pm

7do23200820165446While some relatives of the 14 men who died as they were trying to illegally cross the Libyan border from Egypt accused security forces of opening fire on their sons, others are claiming that it was a mine explosion that resulted in the tragic event.

Thirty-one men were trying to enter Libya through the Egyptian desert last week when -- according to one survivor -- they were fired upon at Sidi Barrani near the Libyan border. 

On top of the dead, 11 were injured. Six others managed to escape and find their way past the Libyan checkpoints.

Some suggested that a mine explosion took the lives of their loved ones and are convinced that the accident occurred outside Egyptian territory, as the dead bodies were sent back to the country from Tobruk hospital in Libya.

However, one survivor strongly refuted the account. 

"Once we reached Sidi Barrani, we were staggered by gun shots targeting us from everywhere. The shooting lingered for at least 30 minutes," says Hussein Abdul Azim, who was with his cousin when the latter died during the shooting.

"Six of us managed to sneak into Libya and the rest were scattered all over the place before the shooting finally stopped."

Both Egyptian and Libyan security sources have denied any responsibility for the incident, adding that the two sides are working together in order to find out precise details of what happened in Sidi Barrani.

Illegally crossing the Libyan borders has been common for hundreds of thousands of Egyptian workers, who are desperate to seek better work opportunities in the oil-rich North African country.

"We took the risk because we couldn’t afford to go there legally. We paid an intermediary 700 pounds ($127 in U.S. dollars) to help us cross through the desert, which is more than more times less than the cost of a plane ticket," Azim said.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: The Egyptian-Libyan border. Credit: Al Destour

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