CAIRO: “The situation for Christians in Libya changed after the murder of Muammar Gadhafi … every now and then we would hear that Ansar al-Sharia kidnapped and tortured Christians,” Karim Rezq, the cousin of one of the seven Coptics killed in Libya last week, said at a Sunday seminar held by Tagammu Party in Cairo.
“We were 32 Christians living in eight rooms in one building. On Feb. 23, masked men stormed the place and searched for anyone with a cross tattooed on his hand,” Rezq said.
The assailants asked about the Christians’ rooms, but the landlord told them all residents were Muslim, Rezq said, adding that when someone would say they are Muslim, they would be asked to recite Quranic verses and pray to prove it.
After repeated questions, however, they took the seven victims 70 kilometers away, Rezq continued.
Some Libyan citizens had warned that Ansar al-Sharia were targeting Egyptian Christians at that residence and advised the landlord to claim that all residents were Muslim, Rezq said, adding that, otherwise, the death toll would have been much larger.
“The next day, we heard the news that they were killed. We went to the hospital and found their bodies lying on the floor. We hardly recognized them due to the torture marks. Then, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the assistant to the Libyan ambassador contacted us to offer help.” Rezq said.
Antar Nashed, a brother of one of the victims, said they were warned several times that Ansar al-Sharia was constantly asking about Christians at the residence.
“When they raided the place, I, my brother and my son were sleeping in the same room. They flipped my hand, then left me when they did not find a cross tattooed on it. I then managed to hide my son under the bed,” Nashed said.
Another brother of Nashed’s was abducted and tortured for four days last year in a forced attempt to have him adopt Islam, but then the Libyan authorities intervened to release him, Nashed said.
Ansar al-Sharia moves freely in Libyan cities under the absence of police forces, Nashed said, calling on Christians in Libya to return to Egypt because of reported threats against Egyptian Christians.
Mina Thabet, co-founder of the Egyptian Coalition for Minorities called on the Egyptian government to help Egyptians in Libya to return to their country because their lives are endangered.
Refat al-Saeed, former head of Tagammu Party, claimed that the targeting of Egyptian Christians in Libya is directly related to the situation in Egypt.
“The Muslim Brotherhood believes that Copts are opponents, and they are sending a message to them and to us that Copts are easy targets to be punished for supporting the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi,” said Saeed.
Originally published in Youm7.