Radical jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia kidnapped twenty Egyptian Christians in Sirte, Libya, which is 310 miles east of Tripoli. Identities were not released, but experts believe they were Coptic Christians.
Hanna Aziz said gunmen stormed their resident building at 2:30AM on Saturday.
“They were 15 armed and masked men who came in four vehicles,” he said. “They had a list of full names of Christians in the building. While checking IDs, Muslims were left aside while Christians were grabbed. I heard my friends screaming but they were quickly shushed at gunpoint. After that, we heard nothing. I am still in my room waiting for them to take me. I want to die with them.”
Militants kidnapped thirteen people in that raid. Abu Makar, a Coptic priest, said militants kidnapped seven more Coptics a few days before Saturday. Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister, met with senior church officials on Saturday “to solve the crisis.” Last week, officials found an Egyptian Coptic couple dead in their Sirte home. The responsible party kidnapped and killed their 13-year-old daughter.
Ansar al-Sharia are believed to be the group responsible for the “September 2013 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.” The group is also on the United Nations terror list due to ties with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Extremist groups found safety in towns like Sirte after the removal of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
A number of radical Islamist groups targeted “Christians, women, journalists, refugees,” and anyone they feel were loyal to Gaddafi. Egyptians are main targets since the country allied themselves with the Libyan army. Officials discovered seven dead Egyptian Coptics on a beach in February. In March, two Coptic Christians told The Associated Press they escaped a detention center where they were tortured. The men said a militia group “rounded up” over fifty Egyptian Christians at a market and used tattoos to identify the Christians.
“They shaved our heads,” said 26-year-old Amgad Zaki. “They threatened to sever our heads in implementation of Islamic Shariah (law) while showing us swords. They dealt with us in a very brutal way, including forcing us to insult our Pope Shenouda. I was taken to clean a bathroom, and the man pushed my head inside the toilet and sat on me. I was dying every day, and at one point I thought death is better than this.”
Atef Habib, 34, told the AP the men beat up a Coptic priest and shaved his head and mustache. They also beat up his aide and left his face “blackened and bleeding.”
A video released in February showed a gunman with a group of Coptic Christians. The gunman said the Christians “were among nearly 100 Coptic Egyptians being held for allegedly spreading Christianity in Libya.”