THE Egyptian Foreign Ministry says that it is working closely
with its contacts in Libya to try to secure the release of 21 Copts
who were abducted in at least two separate incidents over the past
After a period of confusion about the fate of the missing
Christians, a group affiliated to Islamic State (IS) said that it
had carried out the kidnapping, and published a picture of 20
people whom it was holding. An IS statement accompanying the
picture said: "Urgent. Soldiers of the Islamic State captured 21
Christian crusaders." The group did not say where the Copts were
being held or whether any demands were being made.
A report in The Daily Telegraph said that a farmer,
Bisheer Estefanos, from Minya, in Upper Egypt, identified at least
two of the captives pictured as being his own brothers, Bishoy and
Samuel. "All we can do is pray to God for help," Mr Estefanos said.
"Their mother is worn out from crying."
Mina Thabet, a researcher with the Egyptian Commission for
Rights and Freedoms, which is based in Cairo, said that other
family members in Egypt had also recognised their loved ones: "I
cannot begin to tell you how devastated they were as they
recognised their sons. They have no idea where they are or what
their fate will be."
The Libyan ambassador to Egypt, Fayez Jibril, confirmed that the
abductions were carried out by the Libyan branch of IS and were
directed against Christians. This "cowardly criminal" act bore no
relation to Libyan customs and traditions, he said in a
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has set up a crisis task force
that is in continuous session and in contact with various Libyan
parties to follow up on the issue of the abductees. A spokesman
declined to elaborate on the steps being taken. Because of the
unrest in Libya, the Egyptian embassy is closed, and it is deemed
unsafe for officials to go there.
Libya also has two rival governments seeking to establish
authority over a country where real power is in the hands of armed
militias. The Foreign Ministry in Cairo has renewed its warning to
Egyptians against travelling to Libya.
The Revd Mikhail Bacchus, of St Mina's Coptic Orthodox Church in
Giza, quoted on the Al-Shorfa website, said: "When it comes to
terrorism, there is no difference between an Egyptian Muslim and an
Egyptian Copt. So, we consider this kidnapping to be directed
against Egypt and all Egyptians."