Twenty Egyptian Christian men are believed to be facing the imminent threat of execution after being abducted in Libya by extremist militants associated with the Islamic State terrorist organization.
It was recently reported by the SITE Intelligence Group that militants, who claim to run the "Tripolitania Province of the Islamic State terrorist outfit," released a statement claiming responsibility for the kidnappings of the Coptic Christian men, through two different abductions raids in Sirte in the last two months.
Although the statement also included pictures showing the captives to be alive, religious freedom activists from the humanitarian organization Christian Freedom International are almost positive that these 20 Christians will be killed, given the brutality that ISIS militants have shown in the thousands of executions that it has already carried out in Iraq and Syria.
In an interview with Assist News Service, Christian Freedom International President and founder, Jim Jacobson, said that one of his colleagues, who he did not name for safety reasons, firmly believes that they will be executed by the militants unless a miracle or God is able to save them.
"Our CFI co-worker believes that ISIS is going to execute [behead] the kidnapped Christian men very soon unless their is 'Divine Intervention'," Jacobson said.
Jacobson further explained that ISIS' publicity move to publish the photos of the hostages is consistent with the group's pattern of releasing hostage photos on their websites and social media accounts, claiming the abduction, before executing them if ransom is not met.
The article reports that Jacobson said that the photo postings was only the "last step before a mass, brutal execution."
ISIS has been known to release photos claiming the abduction of hostages as a way of initiating a ransom agreement, either with governments or family members. In November, a United Nations terrorist expert said that ISIS had made anywhere between $35 million to $45 million off of ransom payments. However, if the ransoms can not be made by the ISIS-specified deadline, the hostages are usually killed.
Jacobson explained that the abducted Christians were Egyptian residents working in Libya solely because they were trying to escape the persecution that Christians encounter from extremist Muslims in Egypt and also looking to escape the Egyptian job market, which is highly discriminatory toward Christians.
Although this particular group of 21 Christians went to Libya looking to escape persecution, the move did not help as they were still found and abducted by radical extremists.
"We are witnessing a pattern of persecution against Christians in Egypt," Christian activist Magdy Malik told the SITE Intelligence Group. "I fear for the lives of these Christians."
Jacobson also accounted the various incidents that led to the Christians' abductions.
On Dec. 3, 13 of the Christians were abducted at gunpoint by militants in Sirte. On the evening of November 29, gunmen abducted seven Egyptian Christians, while they were returning home from Libya to Minya on a bus. Militants stopped the bus and kidnapped just the seven Christians.
Todd Daniels of Persecution.org told The Christian Post that his organization has kept "close contact" with the family of the 20 abducted Egyptian Christians and the families have yet to be updated on the status of their captured loved-ones.
In a separate incident in Sirte in the early morning of Dec. 23, extremist militants stormed an apartment complex where a Christian family lived in Sirte. The militants killed both of the parents and kidnapped the family's oldest daughter, while leaving the two younger sisters behind. The attack was thought to be motivated by religion.
Persecution.org reports that a 14-year-old girl was found dead two days later in the Libyan Desert with two bullet wounds to her head and one in her chest.