Egyptian authorities closed the Salloum border crossing to Libya on Monday night, upon the request of the internationally recognised Libyan government based in Tobruk. The announcement was made by the Marsa Matrouh Chief of Security Major Anany Hamouda, according to state news agency MENA.
Hamouda did not specify the duration of the border closing but cited the tenuous security situation in Libya as the reason behind the move.
Forces aligned with the internationally recognised government in Tobruk clashed with Islamist militias over the control of two of the country’s largest oil ports, Sirte and Ras Lanuf. Heavy fighting resulted in a reduction in oil exports of 300,000 barrels per day, Reuters reported on Monday.
Border security guards had also arrested 145 Egyptians and six Sudanese trying to illegally cross into Libya through “forbidden” areas in the Matruh governorate. A presidential decree issued in November demarcated both “forbidden” and “restricted” areas along the Libyan border, in an effort to counter smuggling, human trafficking, and cross-border militant activity.
Last week, two Egyptians were killed in armed militia clashes on the border of Ra’as Gadir between Libya and Tunisia.
The Egyptian Ministry for Foreign Affairs has repeatedly warned its citizens against travelling to Libya, after recurring incidents of murder and kidnapping of Egyptians working in the country. They also face potential detention by security authorities.
In November, the Egyptian and UAE embassies in Tripoli were targeted in a bomb attack. Unconfirmed media reports, including ones in the New York Times and the BBC, claimed that the two countries had cooperated to carry out air strikes against Islamist-aligned militias in Libya. The Egyptian government denied the reports.