Two Coptic Christian brothers were kidnapped and executed by suspected Islamic State extremists earlier this month in Western Libya after being lured in with the promise of employment.
According to the prominent U.S.-based Christian persecution monitoring agency International Christian Concern, 37 year-old Wasfy Bakhit Gad Mikhail, his brother, 31-year-old Sabry Bakhit and their younger brother, 27-year-old Fahmy Bakhit migrated to Misrata, Libya, over a year-and-a-half ago in hopes of finding better employment opportunities to provide for their families in Upper Egypt.
As the men sought employment in construction, Wasfy received a phone call from a Libyan man on Nov. 6. asking him if he would be able to put a concrete roof on a building.
Wasfy was interested in the job and gave the man the address and arranged for him to come pick him up so that he could go to the job site and give a cost estimate.
When the man arrived as planned, Wasfy and Fahmy went with the man to give him a quote, while Sabry stayed at home. Although Sabry was expecting his brothers to return home later that day, they never did.
"I waited for them all day and night to come back but they didn't return," Sabry told ICC. "I stayed up all night and was very worried about them."
After the brothers failed to returned home the next morning, Sabry and his cousins searched local hospitals and police stations, but were not able to find Wasfy and Fahmy.
A week after Sabry's brothers disappeared, their bodies were found on Nov. 13 about 40 miles outside of Misrata with gunshot wounds to their heads.
After the bodies were taken to a local hospital, it was determined that they were killed on Nov. 12. Both men were married without children.
The news of the brothers deaths did not reach Sabry until Nov. 16 when he received a phone call from a friend who told him that there were two men found shot to death located at the morgue at the Zliten hospital. Sabry and his cousins, Nasser and Ashraf, went down to the morgue and identified the bodies.
"On Monday, Nov. 16, a Libyan friend told us that two men were found killed in Wasi Kiam area and their bodies are in the morgue of Zliten hospital," Sabry explained. "When we arrived at the hospital, it was a very big shock for us when we saw their bodies. They were the bodies of my two brothers, both of them shot in the head. It was terrible."
Sabry said that he was told at the hospital that when his brothers' bodies were found, they were wearing black gloves with Islamic phrases written on them.
According to ICC's Middle East Regional Manager Todd Daniels, that particular part of Libya is known to have many Islamic extremists in the area, especially those affiliated with IS.
The brothers' bodies were flown back to Egypt on Nov. 25 so they could be remembered by friends and family at a funeral service at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in Sohag, Egypt. The men were later buried in the family's graveyard.
"They were targeted and killed because they are Christians. They kept the faith and refused to deny the Lord Jesus Christ," Fr. Sulaiman Botros, the priest of Mar Girgis Coptic church, told ICC. "They are our church's martyrs. We are proud of them. They aren't dead but have been saved by God in Heaven. They have entered into glory and they are in a better place than all of us. They've got their crown in Heaven and they are with Jesus now. No more pain for them, only joy and peace."
Although many Coptic Christians leave Egypt to seek employment opportunities in Libya, they face dire religious persecution at the hands of extremists. Open Doors USA ranks Libya as the 13th worst country for Christian persecution on its annual World Watch List.
After the two Coptic brothers were abducted and killed this month and 21 Coptic Christians were kidnapped and beheaded by IS in February, many Coptic Christians in Libya are afraid to work.
Although many Christians in Misrata now want to return home to Egypt due to fears of being killed by Islamists, they don't have a safe way home.
"We are 16 Christians living in a housing building in Misrata, Libya. We hope to return home to Egypt but there isn't any safe way to return," A Coptic worker named Mina told ICC. "None of us can travel to Egypt by the road because ISIS have controlled Sirte and they can take us captive during our trip by microbus. There isn't any flight from Misrata to Egypt. The only flight is from Tripoli only and the way from Misrata to Tripoli is very hazardous also."
"After the killing of the two Christian brothers, we are afraid to go out to our work and there is a situation of fear among all of us. Pray for us," Mina added.