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Libya: Islamists kidnap 20 Egyptian Christians

Country is riven by violence amid growing extremist threats some three years after the removal of Muammar Gaddafi in a popular uprising.

Islamist militants have abducted 20 Egyptian Christians in Libya in recent days, a source close to the government said on Saturday.

The Ansar al-Sharia militia was responsible for kidnapping 13 of them on Saturday in the coastal city of Sirte, while the remainder were kidnapped in the past few days, the source said.

Their identity was not immediately clear, except that they were said to be Coptic Christians.

Thousands of Egyptians work in Libya, mainly in the construction and craft sectors, and several have been killed in recent years.

In February, the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians who had been shot were found near the second city of Benghazi.

And just last week, an Egyptian Coptic couple were found dead in their home in Sirte, hometown of Muamma Gaddafi, the long-time dictator who was overthrown and killed in a popular uprising three years ago.

Their 13-year-old daughter, who was kidnapped, was later found dead.

Yussef Tebeiqa, local council chairman, said the attack might have been motivated by religion as money and jewellery were not taken.

Sirte, 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of Tripoli, is in the hands of Islamist militias, including Ansar al-Sharia, which the UN Security Council last month added to its terror list over links to al-Qaeda and for running training camps linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

Since Gaddafi’s removal, Libya’s small Christian minority has expressed fears over Islamic extremism, especially with the rise of armed militias enforcing their own law in the absence of central control.

The country remains awash with weapons and powerful militias, and has rival governments and parliaments.

As well as Sirte, Tripoli and second city Benghazi are largely in the hands of militias, and the internationally recognised government has taken refuge in the remote east.

Separately Saturday, Islamist fighters attacked and killed 15 soldiers in the town of Soknah, 180 kilometres (110 miles) southeast of Tripoli, a source close to the government said.

Some of the troops were shot dead and others decapitated by militants who have pledged allegiance to Isil, the source added.

UN-brokered talks aimed at ending months of violence and political deadlock in the North African nation are scheduled to begin on Monday.

The Telegraph

This article was originally published here.

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