ISIS Captures 21 Egyptian Christians, Families Respond: 'All We Can Do Is Pray For Help'

( [email protected] ) Jan 13, 2015 12:02 PM EST
Widespread Fear of Islamic Extremist
Coptic Christian Samir Mujeed weeps as he holds a photo of his 23-year-old son, Girgis Samir, who was abducted in Libya. PA

A branch of the Islamic State terrorist group, known as the "State of Tripoli" in Libya, have captured a group of 21 Coptic Christians, confirmed the SITE intelligence group, which monitors militant activity.

Al Arabiya News reports that several pictures of the Christian men were posted alongside a statement that read: "Urgent. Soldiers of the Islamic State captured 21 Christian crusaders."

Egyptian Christian families, who have waited weeks for news of their relatives' whereabouts, responded in horror to the images.

Bisheer Estefanos, a farmer from Minya in Upper Egypt, said he recognized two of the faces in the photos of his brothers, Bishoy and Samuel, who had traveled to Libya in the hopes of finding work and making enough money to start a family.

"All we can do is pray to God for help," Estefanos said. "Their mother is tired of crying."

An Egyptian priest, Abu Makar, from the men's hometown in Southern Egypt also confirmed the authenticity of the photos. Magdi Malak, a Coptic activist, said that he met with families of the captives who were able to identify the captives in the pictures.

Mina Thabet, a researcher with the Cairo-based Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, also described the devastation felt by the captive's families.

"I cannot begin to tell you how devastated they were as they recognised their sons," he said. "They have no idea where they are or what their fate will be.

Since the dismantling of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, Libya has been in a state of disarray. The region faced a civil war, splintering Libya between an internationally recognized government in the far east and Islamists who control Tripoli in the west.

Egyptian Coptic Christians, many of whom work in Libya, are frequently targeted by the Islamic extremists, who wish to establish a caliphate, or state ruled by Sharia law, throughout the region.

In December, a 13-year-old girl was abducted and killed by armed men in what is believed to be a religiously motivated attack. In February last year, the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians who had been shot were found near Libya's second largest city, Benghazi.

Yesterday, the head of Libya's government pleaded for more help from the international community to fight the growing threat of Islamic extremism within the region.

"The international community classified Ansar al-Sharia as a terrorist organisation and it is leading an international coalition to crush such groups in Iraq and Syria," Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani said of the US-led alliance against the Islamic State group.

"But in Libya, the government and armed forces are battling these groups alone, without any support from the international community," he said.

"We are afraid that the groups that are in Syria and Iraq will infiltrate Libya if they (coalition forces) tighten the noose around them there."