Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said on Friday that the fate of 21 Coptic Egyptians kidnapped in Libya remains unknown, following the surfacing of photos showing they are hostages of Islamic State fighters.
Mahlab, in a press conference, said the Egyptian authorities are monitoring the situation minute-by-minute, heeding the instructions of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
"Egyptian blood is precious to all of us," Mahlab stated.
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 (IS) prisoners about to be executed by the jihadists.
The IS fighters claimed the kidnapped Egyptians had been captured to avenge the Muslim women "tortured and murdered by the Coptic church of Egypt".
Premier Mahlab met with the families of the kidnapped, who travelled from Upper Egypt's Minya governorate early Friday to protest the government's perceived inaction.
Mahlab promised the families a monthly pension of LE1200 (around $157) and a place to stay in Cairo until the issue is resolved.
He also added that the families would be granted free medical care.
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".
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.
Thousands of Egyptians work in Libya, a key destination for Egyptian migrant workers from rural areas, mainly in the construction and craft industries.
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.