Egypt says fate of Copts held in Libya unknown

Egyptian authorities say they are closely following up on the situation of 21 Coptic Christians held by militants in Libya

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Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said on Friday that the fate of 21 Coptic Christians held hostage in neighboring Libya by militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group remains unknown.

Websites affiliated with ISIS on Thursday released photos allegedly for Egyptians hostages wearing orange jumpsuits. The group claimed the men had been captured to avenge what they say is the kidnapping of Muslim women by the Egyptian Coptic Church.

Mahlab said the Egyptian authorities are closely following up on the situation as per the instructions of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the semi-official Ahram Online website reported.

"Egyptian blood is precious to all of us," Mahlab told a press conference.

The premier also met with the families of the kidnaped to reassure them and update them with the latest developments.

The release of the undated pictures sparked fury among the families of the detainees, who traveled to Cairo from Egypt’s governorate of Minya to protest what they said was the government’s inaction.

“We want our kidnapped children back,” they shouted at a demonstration they held outside the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, privately-owned Youm7 newspaper reported.

Mahlab pledged a monthly allowance to the families and a place to stay in until the issue is resolved, Ahram Online said.

A statement from the president’s office on Thursday said a special committee was “following the matter minute-by-minute.”

Calling the abducted men “Coptic crusaders,” the report says that Egyptian Christian women who converted to Islam were “tortured and murdered” by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

There are spats between some Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt over the allegations that the Orthodox Church in the country is not allowing Christian women to convert to Islam. However, the allegations were never made on an official level.

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