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Concern rises for Egyptian Coptic Christians who disappeared in Libya

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(Photo: REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih)A relative of one of the Egyptian Coptic men killed in Libya mourns at a church before attending a mass in El-Our village, in Minya governorate, south of Cairo February 16, 2015. Egyptian jets bombed Islamic State targets in Libya on Monday, a day after the group there released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians, drawing Cairo directly into the conflict across its border.

Since September 30, at least 17 Egyptian Coptic Christians have gone missing in Libya, International Christian Concern (ICC) says.

They were living in an Egyptian neighborhood in Tripoli and it is unknown who took them and why, ICC reported.

Some friends and family believe they were detained by the authorities, while others believe they were taken by an armed group, ICC reported on Oct. 22.

“Regardless, they hold a common fear that these individuals were targeted because of their Christian faith and that they may face a deadly fate reminiscent of the 2015 beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by ISIS,” said ICC.

An Egyptian lawyer whose friend is missing shared, “Even now there [is] no confirmed news. (My friend) Emad Nasr and the other Copts traveled to Libya three months ago.

“They headed to the United Arab Emirates and then to Libya, because there are no direct airlines to Libya.”

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, police in 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,” said the lawyer.

For this reason the action of detaining 17 Copts only is mysterious.

“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 said.

ICC said that the brother of one of the missing Copts said, “It is unknown if they were detained by the Libyan authorities or were kidnapped by unknown parties… they lived in the Gargash neighborhood, in which dozens of Egyptians live.”

Citing local press, ICC said the names of the 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.

October 20 marked the 10-year anniversary of the death of Libya’s former strongman, Moammar Gadhafi.

A decade of instability and violence has left Libya a country shattered by competing armed groups, terrorists, militias, as well as competing governments.

Nevertheless, before the rise of ISIS in 2014, Libya was a common destination for Egypt’s Coptic Christian community said ICC.

BEHEADING OF COPTIC CHRISTIANS

The 2015 beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya stopped many from traveling there for work.

“But Egypt’s continued marginalization of Christians continues to force them to consider alternatives, including high-risk countries such as Libya,” said ICC.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “This is a frightening time for Egyptian Christians, regardless of whether their family or friends are among those missing.

The memory of ISIS marching Coptic Christians down a Libyan beach to their deaths runs deep; it was an event that was traumatic for all of Egypt’s Christians, an event that held serious implications for everyone.”

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