Nobody has claimed responsibility for the crime. Certain media sources have been pointing to a jihadist group, Ansar al-Sharia, because it’s the most well known in the Libyan east. But there are other, far more extremist groups that would not hesitate to attack immigrants for purely religious reasons.
The victims were stonemasons of modest means, like the vast majority of Egyptians who come to work in Libya. According to several fellow Copts, masked militiamen broke into several houses being rented by Coptic and Muslim workers. They asked them questions about Islam and checked to see whether they had crosses tattooed on their forearms [as many Copts do]. They abducted seven workers, several of whom were from the same family. Several hours later, their corpses were found in an abandoned field outside the city.
“Coptic Egyptians are accused of proselytizing because they speak Arabic”
Copts are not the only non-Muslims that come to work in Libya; there are also immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa. But the latter are francophone, while the Egyptian Copts speak Arabic. So they can communicate more with Libyans and, as a result, they are accused of proselytizing.
It is true that Copts were abducted and tortured last year, but at the time we believed it was an isolated act. This time, we’re talking about several premeditated murders.
Still, Libyans have already forgotten this incident because violence is part of our daily life, especially in the east. There were three deaths from gun violence in Benghazi as recently as Wednesday. And the fact that these victims were Coptic does not seem to have really caused any reactions. It’s sad to say, but it’s one crime after another, here!
Libyan diplomats have promised that an investigation would be launched, but these declarations are only meant to ease tensions with Egypt. Policemen and members of the armed forces have been getting killed for months in Libya, and no one has been arrested to date. The authorities are completely overwhelmed.