Six days after the Coptic boy Abanoub Asharaf al-Khawaga, 13, was kidnapped in front of the church of Anba Pola in the north Cairo suburb of Shubral-Kheima, he was found by the police and safely returned to his family.
Abanoub was kidnapped by four men in a car, armed with automatic guns. They caught Abanoub, and drove away at maddening speed hitting several passersby on the way.
The young men around the church were able to pick the car licence number and called the police.
The kidnappers contacted the boy’s father who is a prosperous trader in Shubral-Kheima and demanded a million Egyptian Pounds in ransom, which they later raised to EGP2 million and threatened to kill the boy should the father go to the police.
Father Pola, the priest of Anba Pola’s, filed a complaint with the police and demanded police protection since, according to the complaint, such incidents scare off the congregation and make it unsafe for them to worship.
Yesterday, the police found Abanoub. The family received a phone call from Major General Mahmoud Yusri, director of Qalyubiya Security, informing them that their son was safe and sound at the security headquarters and that they may go pick him up, which they directly did.
Major General Yusri told Watani that, through the information given by the eyewitnesses to the kidnapping incident, the police were able to identify the criminals and trap them. Three of them were found in a house in Salhiya, east of Cairo, and with them Abanoub. The other two were caught, one in Abu-Kebir, Sharqiya, and the other in Qalyubiya.
No ransom money was paid by the boy’s father.
Major General Yusri said the security officials had been racing against time to catch the criminals, and stressed that the incident was criminal and not sectarian.
On CTV satellite channel last evening, Abanoub recounted how he was kidnapped. He said that he had been about to enter the church to attend Holy Mass as was his custom every Sunday morning. A car drew by, and three men with guns disembarked and caught him. He was forced to quickly ride the car, and was blindfolded as it drove for some two hours. When he tried to ask the men why he was caught, he was told to shut up and was hit on the head.
When they reached their destination, Abanoub was placed in a dark room. His captors used to give him biscuits and dried foods, and treated him decently. They told him they had been monitoring his movements for about a full month to determine what was the best time to catch him.
At the early hours on the sixth day, the police stormed the place, counting on the surprise of the move to throw Abanoub’s captors into disarray. The plan worked; the kidnappers gave in, and Abanoub was found intact.
When asked what he did to sustain him through his captivity, Abanoub said he prayed for God to help him, and this gave him peace.
5 April 2013