Egyptian Christians Fear Working in Libya

By Michael Ireland, Senior Reporter, ASSIST News Service

(ANS – SIRTE, LIBYA, Jan. 18, 2015) — Christian Egyptians working in Libya are in fear of their lives after 13 Egyptian Christians were kidnapped in Sirte on  January 3, according to Barnabas Fund (www.barnabasaid.org). This occurred just a few days after seven Egyptian Christians were abducted in the same city, on the Libyan coast.

Many Egyptians, both Muslim and Christian, work in the construction trade in Libya.

Many Egyptians, both Muslim and Christian, work in the construction trade in Libya.

Many Egyptians, both Muslim and Christian, work in the construction trade in Libya.

Eyewitness Hanna Aziz told the Associated Press that 15 masked gunmen separated Egyptian Muslims from Christians as they went door to door in a residential complex at 2.30 a.m. “They had a list of full names of Christians in the building,” he said. “While checking IDs, Muslims were left aside while Christians were grabbed.”

All 13 men, originally from the Egyptian governorate of Minya, were handcuffed and taken away in cars. According to some reports they have now been released after negotiations between the gunmen and local authorities, but IS militants claim that they have abducted and are still holding 21 Christians in Libya. However, they have not revealed when or where the kidnappings took place, nor the nationality of the victims.

Just a few days prior to the kidnappings, seven Egyptian Coptic Christians were abducted at a fake checkpoint as they tried to leave the Sirte. No one has claimed responsibility for the abductions, although the city of Sirte is known to be a haven for Islamist militias.

In a separate incident, masked gunmen went to the family home of doctor Magdy Sobhy Tawfiq and his wife Sahar Talaat Rizk in Sirte in the early hours of  December 23. The Egyptian Christian couple were both shot to death and their eldest daughter, Catherine (13), was abducted and found dead two days later in the Libyan desert outside the city on Christmas Day. Family members and local officials confirmed that the deaths were motivated on religious grounds as Catherine had already been threatened with death if she did not wear the Islamic veil.

In February 2014, the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians living in Libya were found on a beach outside of Benghazi. Local residents reported that gunmen had gone door to door of a Benghazi residential complex, asking residents if they were Christian or Muslim and dragging away the Christians. Police confirmed that the men had been shot in the head and chest.

And in Benghazi in March 2013, 48 Egyptian Christians were detained by Islamists and tortured. It was reported that their heads were shaved and acid was used to burn off the tattoos of crosses that Egyptian Christians often have on their wrists.

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