Kidnap of Copts: a dire history

21-12-2015 07:25 PM

Nevine Kamil

The police in the village of Arab al-Awamer in Assiut, Upper Egypt, succeeded in

freeing the Copt Ishaq Mossad Gayed, 55, who was kidnapped for ransom. A few

days earlier Gayed who was driving his car in front of one of the village’s local

schools had to stop when armed strangers shot at his car’s tyres. They forced him

into a car that had no licence plates and drove him outside the village. The police

was able to track down the kidnappers who then fled leaving Gayed behind. Gayed

was freed, and no ransom was paid. The police are currently pursuing the culprits.

Earlier this month the 11-year-old Antonius Fam Berti who lives in the village of

Rahmaniya in Nag Hammadi, Qena, Upper Egypt was kidnapped in broad daylight

by two armed persons in a car carrying no licence plates. Five days later the police

was able to free the little boy.

According to a report by Shabab Christian movement, kidnap for ransom has rose

to unprecedented levels since the lawlessness that followed the 25 January 2011

Arab Sring uprising. The southern town of Nag Hammadi, some 500km south of

Cairo, holds the record for the highest number of kidnap and threat to kill crimes.

The Berti boy kidnapping is the 79th such case in Nag Hammadi since 2011.

Nader Sobhy, founder of Shabab Christian told Watani that 2012 was the worst

year for kidnap of Copts. He pointed out that even though kidnap cases for ransom

are distinctly fewer now, the crime still persists. It is no secret that Copts are

targeted for kidnap mostly because they are the wealthier sector of the community

in Upper Egypt’s rural district; many of them are the professionals, traders and

landowners. As such, they are seen as able to pay ransom; in addition of course to

the fact that Copts are usually a peaceful non-trouble making community, so are

considered easy prey.

Shabab Christian issued a recent report that cited the most notorious cases that

occurred in 2012.

In August 2012, the physician Hazem Nasr Toma was kidnapped while on his way

home from his clinic in Deshna. The kidnappers contacted his wife and asked for a

ransom of EGP100,000. By the time Toma’s wife and his doctor friends were able

to get hold of the required sum the mediator notified them that he had raised the

sum of the ransom to EGP1 million. But after a commotion by the doctors who felt

that they were now easy prey to those gangsters, the police were able to besiege the

home of one of the culprits. After breaking in, Toma was found inside tied and

blindfolded, and the culprits had run away. Local villagers say that the police had

to call for the help of some of the village’s elders who were able to talk the

kidnappers to let Toma ago against letting them get away with their crime.

In August 2012, Effat Bishay Matta’os who works with his father in the poultry

farm business was kidnapped when he went to meet prospective buyers to one of

his father’s poultry farms that he was offering for sale. The prospective buyers

kidnapped him and asked for a EGP60,000 ransom. Once the money was ready,

the kidnappers stole it from the mediators, beat them and refused to hand over

Matta’os. The family had to resort to a local bully and pay him to work as mediator

between them and the kidnappers. Matta’os was finally released after his family

paid EGP125,000. His body carried signs of torture; he was in a very poor

psychological state and refused to talk to anyone.

The 27-year-old Bishoi Toma Girgis from Nag Hammadi works as an architect

with the Hurghada local building department was kidnapped in the early hours

when he was buying cigarettes near his Hurghada home. His kidnappers, who also

came from Nag Hammadi, asked the family for a USD50 million ransom, and they

said that Girgis is kept in an apartment in Nag Hammadi. The police was able to

free Girgis. The kidnappers later explained that they were in disagreement with

Girgis about the value of a piece of some smuggled artefact.

In May 2012, the 27-year-old Alfred Samuel Abdel Messih who goes by the name

of Larry was kidnapped in Nag Hammadi when he went to his father’s warehouse

at night to fetch some item from the store. Four armed men who had hidden in the

dark assaulted him and forced him into a nearby car. Larry came back 22 days later

only after a ransom of EGP260,000 was paid. The original ransom that was asked

for was EGP1 million. Larry came back in a dreadful physical and psychological

state owing to the torture he had undergone throughout the 22 days he was

kidnapped. All through this period he was tied up and forced to sleep in the car

trunk and was only released a few four hours daily after the kidnappers made sure

his hands and legs were tied and his mouth gagged. Besides all sort of torture that

Larry was subjected to, he was also forced to take drugs. Local villagers said that

the father never filed any complaint with the police due to the ill security state of

the country at the time.

In January 2012, a cement dealer, Moawad Assaad, 55, and his son Assaad

Moawad Assaad, 25, were killed in Nag Hammadi when they resisted their

kidnappers. The Assaads originally refused to pay tribute money to some local

gang. When the Assaads refused to pay up, the mob attempted to kidnap them and

the Assaads were shot while resisting their kidnappers. Another other son, Boulos

Moawad Assaad, 28, miraculously fled and reported that Ahmed Saber, a local

arms trafficker was behind the whole incident. Saber had made it his business to

blackmail Copts. Following this incident, some 1500 Copts closed down their

shops and went on a sit-in on the main road in front of the Security Directorate,

demanding protection and law enforcement.

Watani International

21 December 2015

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