Four Christians, including a child, on Sunday (2 Oct.) became the latest of hundreds of Egypt’s Copts to fall victim to kidnapping and extortion.

Brothers Emad and Ramy Lamei, both day labourers, together with their relative Marzouq Ashamallah and his nine-year-old son Amir, were lured with the promise of a job in Assiut (350km south of Cairo).

Before reaching their destination, armed men blocked the road, kidnapping them at gunpoint, the Watani news website reported on Tuesday.

On the same day, the families of the victims received a demand for 500,000 Egyptian pounds ($56,000) to secure the abductees’ safe release.

According to a family member who asked not to be named, Assiut Security Deputy Chief advised the family to “pay and later the money may be returned once the kidnappers are caught”.

According to Watani, in this part of Egypt, victims are known to have been killed unless ransom is secured and police are not involved until after the transaction is done.

Coptic Christians have been especially targeted with kidnappings for ransom since 2011.

In 2014, Egyptian newspaper al-Fagr claimed a “gang” had imposed “protection money” on close to 500 Coptic families in villages in Assiut. According to the Coalition of Coptic Egypt, the nearby province of Qena alone experienced no less than 72 cases of kidnappings and related violence against Copts from 2011 to 2014.