A video released by Islamic State purportedly shows Egyptian Christians being marched along a beach, before being forced to their knees and beheaded.
SAID TO BE NEAR TRIPOLI, LIBYA (UNKNOWN DATE) (SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE) – Islamic State released a video on Sunday (February 15) purporting to show the beheading of a group of Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya, violence likely to deepen Cairo’s concerns over security threats from militants thriving in the neighbouring country’s chaos.
Egypt’s state news agency MENA quoted the spokesman for the Coptic Church as confirming that 21 Egyptian Christians believed to be held by Islamic State were dead.
In the video, militants in black marched the captives, dressed in orange jump suits, to a beach that the group said was near Tripoli. They were forced down onto their knees, then beheaded.
The video appeared on the Twitter feed of a website that supports Islamic State, which has seized parts of Iraq and Syria and has also beheaded Western hostages.
A caption on the five-minute video read: “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.”
Thousands of Egyptians have travelled to neighbouring Libya in search of jobs since an uprising at home in 2011, despite advice from their government not to go to a country sliding into lawlessness.
Before the killings, one of the militants stood with a knife in his hand.
“Oh people, recently, you’ve seen us on the hills of as-Sham and on Dabiq’s plain, chopping off the heads that have been carrying the cross for a long time, filled with spite against Islam and Muslims. And today, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending another message. Oh Crusaders, safety for you will be only wishes, especially when you’re fighting us all together. Therefore, we will fight you all together, until the war lays down its burdens and Jesus, peace be upon him, will descend, breaking the cross, killing the swine, and abolishing jiyza [head tax]. And the sea you’ve hidden Sheikh Usama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood,” he said in English.
Reuters cannot verify the content of the video.
Relatives of the kidnapped workers had urged Cairo to help secure their release. In the southerly Minya Governorate, relatives screamed and fainted upon hearing news of the deaths.
With Libya caught in a chaotic power struggle between two rival factions operating their own governments, Western officials fear Islamist militants are taking advantage of the turmoil to strengthen their presence.
A number of Islamist militant groups have been active since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 left Libya without a strong central government. A few have declared ties to the radical Islamic State and claimed high-profile attacks over recent weeks in what appears to be an intensifying campaign.
Last month, Islamic State claimed responsibility when at least two gunmen stormed into the five-star Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, killing nine people, including an American security contractor and a Frenchman.
The Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday that Cairo would choose the “necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings”.