Tunisia-Egypt air bridge to evacuate Egyptian nationals from Libya

The Egyptian government will establish an air bridge with Tunisia to evacuate Egyptian nationals fleeing violence in Libya over the Libya-Tunisia border, newly-appointed Manpower Minister Fahmi Ismail said on Thursday.

In a statement to reporters, Ismail said that Egyptian airplanes would carry Egyptian passengers from the Djerba and Qabes airports in Tunisia back to Egypt.

The minister stressed that he was keeping apprised of the latest news coming out of the troubled North African nation through reports issued by the government department responsible for Egyptian expatriates in Libya.

Fahmi added that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry had obtained permission from Libyan authorities to fly five flights to Libya every day in order to transport Egyptians from the Tripoli airport.

The Salloum Border Crossing, the main crossing between Egypt and Libya, has so far received 15,000 Egyptians returning to Egypt. Buses affiliated with Egypt's Ministry of Transport have carried hundreds of Egyptian nationals from the Libyan border to provinces throughout Egypt free of charge.

Violent protests erupted in Libya on 17 February to demand that Libya's longstanding ruler Moammar Qadhafi step down. Libya's security forces have met the uprising with ferocity, using air raids and live ammunition to put down the demonstrations. On Sunday, the unrest spread to the capital, Tripoli.

Eyewitnesses, meanwhile, say that thousands of protesters have been killed and injured by air strikes and state-hired African mercenaries.

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