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Held for a Ransom, Coptic Christian Child Kidnapped in Upper Egypt was Released after his Family Paid a Ransom of 45,000 EGP to the Kidnappers

By ICC’s Egypt Representative

10/28/2015 Cairo, Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Christians in Upper Egypt, particularly in the Minya Governorate, continue to be targeted by gangs for kidnapping and extortion. The most recent kidnapping for ransom case occurred on Wednesday morning, October 21, 2015, when a group of unknown individuals kidnapped a five year old boy, Kastor Amir Bushra, from Ezbet El-Swaify, Dafash village, Samalout, north of Minya governorate, Upper Egypt.
On Wednesday morning, October 21, 2015, a group of people broke into a home owned by a Christian man named Amir Bushra, who works as a nurse in a private clinic in Samalout city, and his other two brothers. They climbed the rear wall of the home which consists of three floors using a rope until they reached its ceiling. They then broke into the apartment of Amir Bushra on the second floor, where they opened its door by the key which Amir forgot in the door outside. After breaking into the apartment, they headed to the room of the children, as there were three children were sleeping in this room. A girl, 12 years old, was sleeping on a bed, and two boys, 9 years old and 5 years old, were sleeping on another bed. They kidnapped the five year old boy, Kastor, and left a cellphone with SIM card in his place on the bed and fled through the main door of the home on the first floor.

Ransom Demands

After kidnapping the child, the kidnappers contacted the child’s father through the cellphone they left, demanding a ransom of 200 thousand EGP in exchange of the return of his son.

“At 4:00 am, I woke up from my sleep when my daughter Nada knocked on the door of my room, she told me that she found a mobile ringing on the bed of her brothers. I took the mobile from her and answered the call. Someone told me that he kidnapped Kastor from his room and asked me to pay 200,000 EGP to return the child,” Amir Bushra, the father of the kidnapped child told International Christian Concern (ICC).

“I rushed to Kastor’s room and I was shocked when I didn’t find him on his bed. I then headed to the police station of Samatout first thing in the morning and filed a formal report with the Samalout Administrative Court.”

Police Inaction

Although the father of the kidnapped child resorted to the police, asking their help to release his son, they did not help him at all.

“Although I gave the police all the details of the call, the cellphone number which called me, but they still didn’t help us, they didn’t even follow up the phone call, try to identify the caller or arrest the kidnappers,” Amir Bushra, the kidnapped child’s father said.

When the police did nothing, the family pooled their money together to pay the ransom to free their kidnapped son. The father of the kidnapped child received another call from the kidnappers threatening that they would kill his son unless he paid the ransom.

“When the police did nothing, I negotiated with them and agreed with them to pay an amount of 45,000 EGP only,” Amir Bushra said

Returned Son

After the father of the kidnapped child gathered the amount from family and friends, the kidnappers agreed with him upon the time and place of the exchange of the money for the child.

“On Thursday, October 22, at 6:00 pm, My cousin named Medhat Wahib and I took the money and rode my motorcycle. The kidnappers were directing us through calling us on the mobile. They asked us to leave the money in a specific place in the agricultural road of Samalout.”

Mina Bushra, the uncle of the kidnapped child told ICC, “After we reached the place they told us about, and put the money there, they asked us to turn back 50 meters. They then called us and asked us to head to the same place again to receive the child, we found the child alone there, took him, and returned home.”

Ongoing Lack of Police Protection for Coptic Christians

The phenomenon of kidnapping Coptic Christians for ransom in Minya province has spread due to the apathy and complacency of police.

Police often appear complicit or reluctant to take action and this has fostered a climate of impunity.

“Most of the kidnapping Christian cases occurring in Minya indicate the weakness and inaction of the security which is the arm of the state to impose its prestige, in light of the perpetrators’s impunity which leads to repetition of these kidnapping cases,” Fr. Estafanous Shehata, Lead Priest in Samalout Diocese and the assistant of Bishop Bevnotious, Bishop of Samalout told ICC.

“Last month, a Christian family in Samalout had to pay a ransom of 300,000 EGP to the kidnappers to free their kidnapped after the police did nothing for them,” said Fatjer Estafanous.

In some kidnapping cases, ransoms are paid and the abductees returned. But in other cases the abductees are killed even after the ransom is paid. In some cases, the abductors sell the abductee to another gang which demand a ransom and there are also cases where ransom is demanded on the threat of kidnapping.

Coptic Christians in Upper Egypt are still suffering from the ongoing incidents of kidnapping for ransom. It is easy for the kidnappers to target them and extort them for ransom because of the lack of police protection.