Coptic Christians targeted for kidnappings in Egypt

29 October 2015

Police complacency toward the kidnapping of Coptic Christians in Egypt has fostered a climate of impunity, according to a Christian persecution charity.

The phenomenon of kidnapping Coptic Christians for ransom has spread in Minya province, the latest of which occurred last week.

A group kidnapped a five-year-old boy, Kastor Amir Bushra, from Dafash village in Upper Egypt on the morning of 21 October. They scaled the rear wall of the home owned by his father, Amir Bushra, and broke into the apartment on the second floor. They then went to the child's bedroom where he, his 12-year-old sister and 9-year-old brother slept.

Taking the boy, they left a mobile phone on his bed and fled the house.

The kidnappers later contacted the child's father through the mobile phone demanding a ransom of 200,000 EGP (over £16,000) in exchange for his son.

"At 4:00 am, I woke up from my sleep when my daughter Nada knocked on the door of my room, she told me that she found a mobile ringing on the bed of her brothers. I took the mobile from her and answered the call. Someone told me that he kidnapped Kastor from his room and asked me to pay 200,000 EGP to return the child," Bushra told ICC.

"I rushed to Kastor's room and I was shocked when I didn't find him on his bed. I then headed to the police station of Samatout first thing in the morning and filed a formal report with the Samalout Administrative Court."

Despite Bushra contacting the police, they did nothing.

"Although I gave the police all the details of the call, the cellphone number which called me, but they still didn't help us, they didn't even follow up the phone call, try to identify the caller or arrest the kidnappers," he said.

The family decided to pool resources and paid the kidnappers a negotiated fee of 45,000 EGP for the return of Bushra's son. The exchange was successful and Kastor was returned to his father.

Fr. Estafanous Shehata, lead priest in Samalout Diocese, told International Christian Concern that cases of abduction are not uncommon in Egypt, particularly in the Christian community, and blamed government failure to hold perpetrators to account.

"Most of the kidnapping Christian cases occurring in Minya indicate the weakness and inaction of the security which is the arm of the state to impose its prestige, in light of the perpetrators's impunity which leads to repetition of these kidnapping cases," he said.

In some kidnapping cases, ransoms have been paid but the abductee has not been returned, either having been killed or sold.

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