Islamic State extremists have kidnapped nearly 90 Christians from Eritrea as the refugees tried to leave their homeland to safety in Europe.
The victims were aboard a truck operated by people believed to be human traffickers, according to an official of the Stockholm-based International Commission on Eritrean Refugees.
A United Nations report released June 8 said the government of Eritrea is responsible for systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that have created a climate of fear in which dissent is stifled.
The report said a large proportion of the population is subjected to forced labor and imprisonment, and hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled the country.
Some of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity.
The report cited an array of human rights violations on a scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere.
The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea describes a totalitarian State bent on controlling Eritreans through a vast security apparatus that has penetrated all levels of society.
"Information gathered through the pervasive control system is used in absolute arbitrariness to keep the population in a state of permanent anxiety," the 500-page report says. "It is not law that rules Eritreans – but fear."
During the abduction extremists stopped the truck, the official said, citing accounts of those who managed to escape the Libya Herald reported.
"There were about 12 Eritrean Muslims and some Egyptians," ICER co-founder Meron Estafanos said. "They put them in another truck and they put 12 women in a smaller pick-up."
After segregating the refugees, the IS group forced the remaining Eritrean Christians onto the truck. But as they left, some of the men managed to jump off the truck, according to Estefanos.
Of those who escaped, three of them said that they heard gunshots, but they were not able to look back because they were running away from the road.
The survivors said they could not ascertain whether the others behind them were either killed or recaptured by the militants.
As the extremists stopped the truck, they asked for the religion of the victims, Estefanos quoted the survivors as saying.
She spoke to a Europe-based brother of one of the survivors who are safe but still somewhere in Libya trying to leave the war-ravaged country.
Those who claimed to be Muslims were then quizzed by the militants on the Qu'ran and religious traditions. During the interrogation, the extremists a Christian who claimed to be a Muslim.
Estefanos did not say what happened to the Christian man.
She said those who were making their way to Europe were now looking for another route as Libya continues to be dangerous, given the increasing risk of running into checkpoints of Islamic State extremists.
"Ever since the kidnapping by ISIS in Libya last February, many are taking different routes. Some go from Khartoum to Turkey, then Greece," Estefanos said.
"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."