By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– At least seven Egyptian Christians, including minors, remain missing in southern Egypt after they were reportedly abducted from troubled Minya province.
The abductions, thought to be carried out by members of the Muslim Brotherhood group, are among hundreds of similar cases in the last few years, right activists said.
Among those kidnapped by a “Muslim mob” on January 25, is 17-year-old Christian boy Marcos Zakaria, explained Ezzat Ibrahim, director of the World Center for Human Rights in Minya and Assiut.
Zakaria lived in Upper Egypt in Dier Mawas city in Minya province and is a student in his final year of secondary school, he added in comments distributed by advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC).
The kidnappers “contacted his family demanding a ransom of million Egyptian pounds ($144,000) for his return,” Ibrahim said.
YOUNG CHILDREN KIDNAPPED
Soon after, on February 1, a 10-year-old boy, Marcos Ibrahim Ayoub, was reportedly abducted “by a Muslim mob” from his father’s farm in the village of Barsha in Minya Province.
That same day, in Khanka city in Qalyubia Governorate, a 10-year-old Christian girl, identified as Sandy Girgis Ramses was also kidnapped by Muslims while
playing in front of her home, said Ihab Mourad, a Christian in Khanka.
In both cases, the kidnappers demanded ransom, but the whereabouts of the children remained unclear.
In a seperate, 23-year-old Nazlat El Malak was abducted from his store on February 1 when he refused to pay extortion fees to “armed Muslim thugs,” according to Nashat Khalf, a Christian in Sahel Selim in a statement distributed by ICC.
El Malak was reportedly abducted from Sahel Selim city in the Assiut Governorate. The day before, on January 31, the same same kidnappers allegedly stole a car and pick-up truck from Christians and demanded they be given “an exorbitant fee” for their return, Christians said.
ARMED MASKED MEN
On February 2, “masked Muslims abducted Esther Kadis at gunpoint while she was on her way to church,” said Ayoub Wasfy, a Christian from her city, Nag Hammadi. Hours later police reportedly detained the kidnappers and released Esther back to her family, according to Egyptian Christians.
“On Monday evening, February 3, a mob of armed Muslims abducted two Christian [men] at gunpoint,” said Ibrahim.
Ashraf Sobhi Khalil and Magdy Fayez, residents of Deir El Malak village and El Bayadeya village, were transporting sand when they stopped to change a flat tire, prompting militants to abduct them, Christians said. The kidnappers have demanded a ransom from each of their families, but the amount was not immediately revealed.
On Tuesday, February 4 a 25-year-old Christian, Kerolos Adel Abdel-Malak, was abducted at gunpoint on his way from Minya city to his home in the village of Towa, according to rights investigatos. The kidnappers demanded a ransom for his safe return and threatened his family that they “will kill him if they report this to the police,” Ibrahim said.
The latest revealed kidnappings followed last month’s abduction of Coptic pharmacist Emil Ayad Mikhael, 50, Christians told BosNewsLife earlier. He was reportedly kidnapped on his way home from his pharmacy located in the
Badari district of the Assiut area.
COLLAPSE OF SECURITY
The kidnappings had been mostly blamed on criminal gangs, which operate more freely amid Egypt’s collapse in security since the 2011 fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
However ICC President Jeff King told BosNewsLife that increasingly “Muslim radicals, most likely Muslim Brotherhood members, are targeting Christians in Egypt, specifically in the Minya province.””
He urged Egypt “to pay attention to and do something about this matter, as funds received from these illegal activities likely fuel…radicalism that is tearing at the very fabric of this great country.”
Christians, mainly known as Copts in Egypt, comprise roughly 10 percent of the country’s roughly 85-million people.
Representatives have expressed concern about the perceived rise if Islamic extremism in the country, with fresh reports that besides kidnappings Christians have also been forced to pay controversial Islamic taxes amid death threats.
Earlier, several Christians were killed in attacks against churches, prompting international outrage and pressure on Egyptian authorities to increase protection of its Christian minority.