Libya: ISIS abducts Eritrean Christians

The Stockholm-based International Commission on Eritrean Refugees (ICER) reported June 7 that 86 Eritrean Christians—including 12 women and several children—were abducted by presumed ISIS militants outside the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The ICER's Meron Estefanos said that the Christians were migrants, the majority from city of Adi Keih, and were trying to make their way to Europe. They were taken in a dawn raid on June 3 while travelling in a truck towards Tripoli. According to Estefanos, witnesses said those travelling in the vehicle were divided by their religion, and six Muslims were released by the captors. "IS militants asked everyone who is Muslim or not and everybody started saying they are Muslims," she told IBTimesUK. "But you have to know the Koran, and they didn't." Three Christians allegedly managed to escape, though it is not clear if their whereabouts are known. Said Estafanos: "We are trying to get them to a safe place, but there is no safe place in Libya."

In an interview with the Libya Herald, Estafanos added that many migrants are now trying to avoid Libya en route to Europe because of the growing ISIS presence. She also purported that a video released by the jihadist group in April purporting to show the beheading of 28 Ethiopian Christians had been edited. A number of Eritrean Christians were also killed at the same time, she said.

Speaking to Radio France Internationale in April, Eritrean Catholic priest Father Mussie Zerai said Christian migrants have long faced maltreatment in Libya, but being targeted for death because of their religion is a new development: "Christian people, especially from Eritrea and Ethiopia, are discriminated against in Libya because of the religion issue. It's not the first time, it's not new—discrimination or bad treatment, all these things. But it's the first time they are targeted in this way. They are killed by ISIS because they are Christian. This is the first time." (Christianity Today, June 8; Sudan Tribune, June 7)

The ISIS presence in the country is putting more pressure on Libya's warring factions as they meet for internationally brokered talks in the Moroccan seaside resort of Skhirat. UN envoy Bernardino Leon is pushing for an agreement before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on June 17. (AFP, June 8)