According to US defense officials, ISIS captured 86 Eritreans from a people trafficker caravan in Libya last week, AP has reported.
The initial reports of kidnapping have been confirmed by US defense officials stating that the convoy was ambushed by militants south of Tripoli before dawn this past Wednesday morning.
Meron Estafanos, the co-founder of the Stockholm-based International Commission on Eritrean Refugees, said that “most of the kidnapped Eritreans were Christians and the group of migrants included about 12 Eritrean Muslims and some Egyptians. They put them in another truck and they put 12 Eritrean women Christians in a smaller pickup."
According to Estefanos, ISIS rebels stopped the truck and asked migrants about their religions and those who claimed to be Muslim were forced to read the Quran in order to catch Christians pretending to be Muslims.
Libya has been a bridge for many of the migrants from the Middle East and Africa who want to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. However, the presence of ISIS in Libya has endangered migrants trying to cross illegally.
In February ISIS published a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. In April ISIS released another video showing the beheading and shooting of more than 60 Ethiopian Christians.
"Ever since the kidnapping by ISIS in Libya last February," Estefanos said. "Many are taking different routes. Some go from Khartoum [Sudan] to Turkey, then Greece. Others are now leaving via Khartoum to Cairo, then Alexandria and from there by boat to Italy. I think we will see an increase towards Turkey and Cairo instead of Libya,” she added.
Long-time Libyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011. Since the beginning of 2014, Libya has been thrown into chaos exploited by militants taking advantage of a power vacuum created by two competing governments backed by different armed factions.
Libya’s oil revenues have been heavily impacted by the ongoing strife in the country. The UN envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, has stated that Libya has enough money only to pay salaries for another six weeks, urging all parties to come together under a united government. Negotiations concerning the future of Libya are continuing in Moscow.