By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Rights activists have urged Egypt’s government to help free dozens of Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya, amid fears they may be executed by Islamic militants.
In a petition obtained by BosNewsLife, advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC)asked Cairo to “immediately begin rescue operations on behalf of 27 Egyptian citizens”, most of them Coptic Christians.
They were abducted in two separate raids in December and January, including by a group claiming to represent Islamic State militants, Christians said. The IS linked group reportedly claimed responsibility for 21 of the victims calling them “Christian crusaders”.
In the petition, ICC said it is concerned that if “swift action is not taken, the kidnapping victims could “face the possibility of enslavement, torture, and execution.”
Some Christians have already been killed, including on December 23, when Islamic militants broke into the home of Dr. Magdy Tawfiq in Sirte. The militants murdered Dr. Tawfiq, his wife, and his 13-year-old daughter, Christians told BosNewsLife earlier.
After death threats, Dr. Tawfiq and his family had reportedly tried to secure safe passage back to Egypt, when the attack took place.
Yet, ICC’s Advocacy Director Isaac Six told BosNewsLife that so far the Egyptian government “has apparently done little more than acknowledge that the kidnappings took place.”
Rights investigators have also expressed concern about minority Christians remaining trapped in sangerous areas of Libya, including many Egyptian Christians also known as “Copts”.
Egyptian Christians with relatives in Sirte and other parts of Libya say “many” of their family members remain trapped, with no way to travel without risking further abductions.
ICC urged Egypt’s government to help increase “protections for the expatriate Coptic community” in Libya “and to facilitate the expeditious return home of Coptic Christians in Libya currently under threat.”
Six stressed “It’s time for action, not only on behalf of those currently in the hands of [IS] affiliates and other radical groups, but for all of the Coptic Christian workers in Libya who are undeniably at risk of being killed or abducted simply because of their religious identity.”
The official hopes “the Egyptian government will heed this call to action and take immediate steps towards rescuing the abductees and securing Coptic communities in Libya.”
Egyptian authorities have not yet indicated when and if a rescue operation will be launched.