Isil’s new affiliate in Libya has claimed responsibility for kidnapping more than 20 Christian hostages, mostly Egyptian Copts who went missing earlier this month.

“Urgent. Soldiers of the Islamic State captured 21 Christian crusaders,” jihadists from the self-declared ‘State of Tripoli’ group said in a statement posted online.

Photoshopped pictures of several men were posted alongside the brief statement, prompting horror from Christian families inside neighbouring Egypt who have waited weeks for news of their relatives’ whereabouts.

Bisheer Estefanos, a farmer from the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya, said he recognised the faces of his brothers, Bishoy and Samuel, among the men. “All we can do is pray to God for help,” he said. “Their mother is tired of crying.”

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