A Foreign Ministry official stated on Saturday that 13 Egyptian Coptic Christians were kidnapped in the Libyan city of Sirte.
This brings the number of kidnapped Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya up to 20, as seven other Coptic Egyptians were kidnapped last week in Sirte.
The kidnappings are rumored to be sectarian in nature. A witness to the crime, Hanna Aziz, told the Associated Press that masked gunmen went from room to room in his building asking for identification papers to separate the Christians from the Muslims. The gunmen then handcuffed the Christians and drove away with them.
The Egyptian ambassador in Libya is in contact with the Libyan authorities and is attempting to secure the release of the hostages, a source from the Foreign Ministry told the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm.
However, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Badr Abdel Atty said that Libyan authorities have no control over areas ruled by militants, including Sirte.
According to the AP report, Sirte has become a safe-haven for militant groups like Ansar al-Shariah, which is blamed for orchestrating the 2013 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi.
Militants in Sirte killed a Coptic Egyptian doctor, his wife and his daughter on December 23. The doctor and his wife were found handcuffed in their home, while their 18-year old daughter was kidnapped and held for an unknown amount of time before her body was found.
The motive was thought to be sectarian, as nothing was stolen from the family. Six thousand Libyan Dinars were on the table next to the bodies and the wife’s jewelry remained in the house.
Coptic activists have criticized the Egyptian government in the past for not giving enough attention to crimes against Coptic Christians.
In February, seven Coptic Christians were found murdered in Benghazi. They were handcuffed and suffered gunshot wounds to the head and chest. The ambulance taking them to the hospital was also attacked in a drive-by shooting that injured the driver and a medic.
In the immediate aftermath of this crime, Atty stated that, “Copts are not targeted in Libya.” He asserted that the crime was caused by “some criminal motives in the context of illegal immigration where there is a disagreement between the victims and the gangs.”
The Coptic rights organization Coptic Solidarity stated this response showed that the Egyptian government was shifting blame to “the victims, terrorist groups, and the Libyan authorities,” which signaled, “that others can attack Copts worldwide with impunity.”
Coptic Solidarity further condemned the “the Egyptian state’s apathetic response to the obvious targeting of its citizens.”