Even as authorities in Cairo said they were investigating the abduction of seven Egyptian Christians in Libya, reports emerged Saturday of more than a dozen other such kidnappings carried out during the day by suspected Islamic militants.
Despite the intensifying dangers as Libya splinters into warring fiefdoms, many Egyptians continue to seek work in the neighboring North African nation, including large numbers of Coptic Christians from southern Egypt or the Nile Delta.
The slayings sent shock waves through Egypt's Coptic community, which will be observing Eastern rite Christmas in the coming week.
A Coptic priest in the town of Samalout in southern Egypt, where the kidnapping victims were from, confirmed the abduction, the AP reported.
As chaos has mounted in Libya in the wake of its 2011 uprising, Coptic Christians have found themselves in particular peril. In February, seven were shot dead execution-style in the eastern Libya city of Benghazi.
The wave of attacks against Copts, indigenous Christians who make up about 10% of Egypt's population, came as battling militias in Libya tried to gain an advantage in a fierce confrontation that has largely devolved into a stalemate.