At least 17 Egyptian Coptic Christians have gone missing in Libya this month according to International Christian Concern (ICC).
The organisation says they were living in an Egyptian neighbourhood in Tripoli and it's unknown whether they have been detained by the authorities or kidnapped by an armed group.
ICC says it's feared they 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.
An Egyptian lawyer whose friend is missing said :
“Even now there [is] no confirmed news. (My friend) Emad Nasr and the other Copts travelled 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, but they failed to get work opportunities and the costs of renewing the visas are high. So the police of 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. So the action of detaining 17 Copts only is such a mysterious action! We are fearing of repeating an incident like the one by ISIS. We are contacting the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to intervene in the situation.”
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 neighbourhood, in which dozens of Egyptians live. We learned from one of the residents there that a number of Egyptians were kidnapped in this neighbourhood without knowing their fate."
According to local press, 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.
A decade of violence since the death of Libya’s leader Colonel Gaddafi, has seen the country shattered by competing armed groups, terrorists, militias, as well as competing governments.
ICC says that the 2015 beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya stopped many Egyptians Coptic Christians from travelling to Libya for work. But Egypt’s continued marginalization of Christians continues to force them to consider alternatives, including high-risk countries such as Libya.
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. We urge the relevant authorities to do everything possible to investigate the cause of this latest disappearance, to bring these men home alive, and the perpetrators to justice.”