21 Egyptian Christians beheaded by IS in Libya
Libyan jihadists who pledge loyalty to IS have posted a video online showing the apparent beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians. The video showed a group of men dressed in orange overalls, being forced to the ground and decapitated. The men are believed to have been Egyptian workers, all Coptic Christians, who were kidnapped in December and January from the coastal town of Sirte in eastern Libya, which is under the control of Islamist groups.
Libya is home to a large community of both Muslim and Coptic Egyptians, with most working in the construction sector. In the first kidnapping in Sirte in late December, a group was abducted at a fake checkpoint while trying to leave the city. In January 2015, militants raided a residential compound in Sirte and separated Christians from Muslims before handcuffing their captives and taking them away.
In response to the beheadings, Egyptian State TV announced this morning that Egypt has bombed Islamic State targets in Libya, in dawn strikes targeting camps, training sites and weapons storage areas.
Libyan Air force commander Saqer al-Joroushi told Reuters that Libyan planes had bombed targets in Sirte and Bin Jawad.
Earlier, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt had the “right to respond” against IS, whom he described as “inhuman criminal killers”. “Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups carrying extremist ideology and sharing the same goals.”
Egypt has declared seven days of national mourning.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is the main Christian Church in Egypt, where it has between 6 and 11 million members. While most Copts live in Egypt, the Church has around a million members outside Egypt; there are over 100 churches in the USA and a cathedral in the UK. Copts believe that their Church dates back to around 50 AD, when the Apostle Mark is said to have visited Egypt. Mark is regarded as the first Pope of Alexandria. This makes it one of the earliest Christian groups outside the Holy Land. The early Church suffered persecution under the Roman Empire, and there were intermittent persecutions after Egypt became a Muslim country.