Families of Egyptian hostages in Libya urge action from state as IS kidnapping photos emerge

Ayat Al-Tawy, Friday 13 Feb 2015

Coptic Christians working in Libya have in recent months been targeted by Islamist militias, which has included kidnappings and executions

Syndicate of Journalists
Families of Egyptians taken hostages in Libya protest at Egypt's Journalists' Syndicate, Egypt, Cairo, February 13, 2015 (Photo: Sherif Tarek)

Families of almost two dozen Coptic Egyptians taken hostages in Libya staged a rally in Cairo on Friday to urge action from authorities after Islamic State fighters claimed the kidnapping of the men.

Fears have heightened over the fate of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians after the ultra-hardline group  published a report purportedly showing photos of the men, claiming they had been captured to avenge the Muslim women "tortured and murdered by the Coptic church of Egypt".

The undated photos published in the latest edition of a magazine affiliated to the extremist group and dated December-January showed captive workers handcuffed, and wearing orange-colored jumpsuits often donned by Islamic State prisoners about to be executed by the jihadists.

Dozens protested on Friday outside Egypt's Journalist Syndicate in downtown Cairo, holding photos of the kidnapped and shouting slogans lamenting the government's perceived "inaction."

"We either want them back or at least learn if they had been killed," one of the participants in the rally said.

The protestors also shouted "where are our brothers in Libya?" and "where is El-Sisi...where is El Sisi?"

Demonstrators then made their way to Cairo's main Coptic cathedral to "pray for the captives."

The Egyptian Coptic Christians were kidnapped in late December and January in two raids in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, now in the hands of Islamist militants.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said an emergency plan is in place to evacuate Egyptians wishing to return home out of Libya, state-run news agency MENA said.

Thousands of Egyptians work in Libya, a key destination for Egyptian migrant workers from rural areas, mainly in the construction and craft industry.

The Islamic State group, which has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq, said in the report its expansion into Libya, Egypt's Sinai and other regions allowed it "to easily capture the Coptic crusaders".

It urged Muslims to beware that God will reward "those who spill the blood of these Coptic crusaders wherever they may be found."

Egypt's most active militant group,  Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, swore allegiance to Islamic State last year, changing its name to Sinai Province.

A statement from the office of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi on Thursday said a special committee was closely following developments in the kidnapping in order to "clarify the situation and learn the truth".

In February 2014, seven Egyptian Christians were found shot dead execution-style on a beach in eastern Libya.

Egypt's government has repeatedly warned in recent months against any travel to Libya , and advised those residing in the North African country to  stay away from areas of tension.

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