By Aya Nader
Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church Tuesday condemned the recent killing of seven Egyptian Copts in Western Libya, with the church calling for a hasty arrest of the “terrorists” responsible.
On Sunday night, a group of masked militants stormed into the building where the Egyptians lived and abducted eight, taking them to Gorutha suburb west of Benghazi. Only one was able to escape.
The seven bodies were handed over to the Egyptian embassy in Benghazi, where they will be shipped to Egypt soon to be handed over to their families for burial.
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign affairs said in a statement that the ambulance that transported the bodies to a hospital in Benghazi was shot after leaving the hospital, and the paramedic and the driver were wounded.
The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) issued a statement, calling the Egyptian authorities to communicate with the Libyan ones to protect Egyptians living in Libya in light of the unstable security there.
According to EOHR head Hafez Abou Saada, there is suspicion that extremist groups killed them because of the Egyptians’ religion.
The Salafi Al Nour Party issued a statement as well condemning it, and calling on the Egyptian government to protect Egyptians living in Libya.
According to state-owned Al-Ahram, armed militants in Libya said Monday that they are currently holding 100 seized Egyptian cargo trucks, which they said would be released in exchange for the release of Libyan relatives being tried on criminal charges in Egypt.
Egyptian-Libyan relations have witnessed several tense incidents since 2011, with the outbreak of the 25 January Revolution in Egypt and the ouster of Libya’s former president Muamar Gaddafi. In March 2013, an Egyptian Copt was tortured to death in a Libyan prison, where he was being held on charges of illegal proselytising . In the same month, an Egyptian church was attacked in Benghazi, and Libyan authorities deported six Egyptian Copts to Egypt without explanation.
The Egyptian foreign ministry could not be reached for comment.