Misrata, Libya, Jan 14, 2015 / 15:12 pm
A Libyan affiliate of the Islamic State claimed the abduction of 21 Coptic Christians on Monday, releasing pictures of those they had captured.
"State of Tripoli", Islamic State's affiliate in Libya, published three pictures Jan. 12 of the kidnapped Copts with the caption "Soldiers of the Islamic State captured 21 Christian Crusaders," according to the New York Times.
Family members of some of the abductees from Egypt's Minya province have reportedly identified them.
The Egyptian foreign ministry has confirmed the abductions of 20 Egyptians in the Libyan city of Sirte, located 150 miles southeast of Misrata. The coastal city has been the base of Islamic State training camps for at least several months, according to The Guardian.
An Egyptian spokesperson has reported the foreign ministry is following the case with "extreme caution" and is "operating without stop" to clarify reports of the abductions.
Many Egyptians, including Copts, travel to Libya seeking employment opportunities.
A timeframe for the abductions remains unclear, though the foreign ministry suggests the men were seized at different times in two groups. On Jan. 3, more than 12 Copts were reported to have been abducted by Islamic militants, and seven more were kidnapped days before.
An eyewitness told the AP that attackers entered a residential building, separating out Muslim workers from Christians, handcuffing and kidnapping the Christians.
The men may have been targeted for both sectarian and political reasons. Islamist militants in Libya are reportedly fighting a rival coalition that is backed in part by the Egyptian government.
This is not the first time Egyptian Christians have been targeted in Libya. Last month, an Egyptian Christian teen and her parents were found dead in Sirte.
Libyan authorities discovered the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians last February near militant-held parts of Benghazi.