Seventeen Egyptian Coptic Christians have gone missing in Libya, sparking concerns that ISIS militants may be to blame in light of previous mass executions of Copts at the hands of the radical Islamic group.
The Egyptian Christians have been missing from Tripoli since September 30 according to International Christian Concern.
Some believe that they were abducted by militants while others are worried they may have been detained by government authorities for unknown reasons.
Either way, fears have arisen that the Copts were targeted for their Christian faith in a community in which the memory of the 2015 beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS in Libya is still very fresh.
“Even now there [is] no confirmed news,” an Egyptian attorney who is friends with one of the missing told ICC, explaining that his friend Emad Nasr and the other missing Copts had journeyed to Libya over the summer and that he believes they were detained by authorities.
“They headed to the United Arab Emirates and then to Libya, because there are no direct airlines to Libya,” he explained. “The Copts had visas for Libya (labor visas), but they failed to get work opportunities and the costs of renewing the visas are high. So the police of Libya detained them from September 30 until now.”
“The Copts were staying in the Gargash District in Tripoli. In this residency, they were surrounded by so many persons of other countries like India and Bangladesh. So the action of detaining 17 Copts only is such a mysterious action! We are fearing of repeating an incident like the one who did by ISIS. We are contacting the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to intervene in the situation,” he also said.
The brother of one of those missing, however, shared that concerned friends and family simply don’t know what has happened.
“It is unknown if they were detained by the Libyan authorities or were kidnapped by unknown parties,” he explained. The Copts “lived in the Gargash neighborhood, in which dozens of Egyptians live. We learned from one of the residents there that a number of Egyptians were kidnapped in this neighborhood without knowing their fate.”
According to local media, the names of those missing are Emad Nasr, Assem Abo Gobrial, George Nasser Riad, Maris Malak Matias, Wael Samir Shawky, Hani Zaki Shaker Allah, Haitham Nazeer Malak, Gerges Nazi Malak, Thabet Gad Hanna, Bakhit Malak Matias, Adly Assad Ataya, Mikhaeil Nazir Malak, Roman Masoud Fahim, Karim Abu al-Ghait, Emad Nasri Qaldi, Daniel Saber Lamei, and Ezekiel Saber Lamei.
Although Libya has experienced instability, violence, and an increased presence of armed militias like ISIS groups, Egyptian Copts have nonetheless sought work there as they face persecution in Egypt as well.
ICC notes that although the 2015 ISIS beheading slowed travel by Copts from Libya to Egypt, ongoing marginalization in their home country still drives many to seek work in Libya where risks are still even higher.
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