Libya: 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians kidnapped by Libyan Islamists

Libya flag

The Australian Coptic Movement Association condemns the ongoing targeting of Coptic Christians in Libya. Coptic Christian workers made up the majority of Libya’s Christian minority. Coptic churches have been bombed and many Copts have been brutally killed or taken captive by Islamist militants. A total of 20 Coptic Christians have been kidnapped by Islamist militia in the past week. The Egyptian Government with the assistance of the International Community must immediately act to protect Coptic Christians in Libya.  

The additional kidnappings follow the previous kidnapping of seven Coptic men.

Furthermore, three Coptic Christians were brutally killed last week including a 13 year old girl named Catherine.

The Associated Press reported the following on the latest kidnappings:

‘Witness Hanna Aziz told The Associated Press that the gunmen in the Libyan city of Sirte went room to room in their residence at 2:30 a.m. Saturday and asked for identification papers to separate Muslim workers from Christians. Aziz says the gunmen handcuffed the Christians and drove away with them.

“They were 15 armed and masked men who came in four vehicles. They had a list of full names of Christians in the building. While checking IDs, Muslims were left aside while Christians were grabbed,” Aziz said, adding that he survived simply because he didn’t open his door.’

 A history of terror following International intervention.

The prevalence of targeted abductions and killings of Copts working in Libya has increased since the ouster of Mohammed Gaddafi in 2011. There are a series of reports that document brutal murders, hostages and abductions of Copts for no reason other than their religious identification as well as attacks on their property. This statement details particularly disturbing instances of abductions and persecution.

Murder of Copts in Libya

In Feburary 2014, seven Copts, stone masons by trade, were executed in Benghazi. This is the second time Copts have been targeted in Benghazi. In March 2013, a Copt was tortured to death in a Libyan prison, after being arrested with several dozen other Copts by Benghazi militia for charges of illegal proselytizing.

Abduction of Copts in Libya

In August 2014, four Copts – Gamal Matta Hakim, Raafat Matta Hakim, Romany Matta Hakim and Adly Sedky Hamim – were abducted in Libya. These Copts were passengers on a microbus from Libya to Egypt with fellow Muslims following completion of work with a contractor. Masked gunmen stopped their vehicle and asked for identification. The masked gunmen then ordered Copts to disembark and for the driver to depart with the rest of the passengers. When the driver enquired as to why the gunmen asked for the Copts, the gunmen responded saying that he should leave or risk being killed. The driver left with the rest of the passengers leaving the Copts behind with their kidnappers. The fate of these Copts is unknown.

Abduction of Sarah Ishaq Abdelmalak

Sarah Ishaq Abdelmalek was abducted in September 2012 while on her way to school in Egypt. The abductee’s father filed a missing person report. The Salafi Front claimed Sarah had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man even though she was under the minimum legal age. A Coptic association, which campaigns around cases of Coptic females allegedly kidnapped and forced into conversion to Islam, filed a lawsuit with the public prosecution against the Salafi Front. The ACM is concerned that there are allegations that Sarah was smuggled across the borders to Libya with the aid and knowledge of Egyptian authorities.

Attacks on places of worship in Libya

Places of worship are  targeted such as the bomb attack on a Coptic church in Libya’s third largest city, Misrata in December 2012, leading up to the traditional New Year’s Eve mass. According to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, the explosion killed two Egyptian citizens and wounded two others. Further, the Egyptian Coptic Church is Benghazi was set ablaze and two priests assaulted in separate incidents in 2013.

The upsurge in attacks on Coptic Christians in Libya since the ouster of Gaddafi is of grave concern. The ACM condemns these abductions, killings and attacks on Coptic property in what is becoming an increasingly inhospitable region for Copts. We call for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to intervene and work with the Libyan authorities. We call for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protect Egyptians living in Libya in light of the instability and increased risk of persecution. The Egyptian and Libyan Government must apprehend the perpetrators of these heinous crimes and ensure that there is justice for the victims and their families. The International Community also shares responsibility in this case following the downfall of Gaddafi and the subsequent security vacuum that ensued .

The ACM has been working hard for our community since 2010. We have held rallies, vigils, seminars, conferences and published a historic book.  Contact us today to become a member by emailing or make a donation to help with our mission. 


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