Egypt bombs IS targets in Libya after video of Christians' beheadings

(Photo: REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih)A relative of one of the Egyptian Coptic men killed in Libya mourns at a church before attending a mass in El-Our village, in Minya governorate, south of Cairo February 16, 2015. Egyptian jets bombed Islamic State targets in Libya on Monday, a day after the group there released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians, drawing Cairo directly into the conflict across its border.

Egypt says it has bombed Islamic State targets in Libya, hours after the group published video showing the apparent beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians.

The country's State television said the dawn strikes had targeted camps, training sites and weapons storage areas, the BBC reported on Feb. 16.

"Your armed forces on Monday carried out focused air strikes in Libya against Daesh [IS] camps, places of gathering and training, and weapons depots," the military said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS or IS as it now calls itself.

The TV footage showed Egyptian fighter jets it said were taking off to carry out the strikes.

Pope Francis was quick to condemn the murder of the Egyptian Coptic Christians while speaking with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rev. John Chalmers, at the Vatican on Feb. 16.

"The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out,"said Francis.

"I read about the execution of those 21 or 22 Coptic Christians. Their only words were: 'Jesus, help me!'. They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians said the pontiff.

"The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians!"


"Their blood confesses Christ. As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians."

A Libyan official said in a statement to Al Arabiya News Channel that the Egyptian strikes on ISIS occurred in coordination with the Libyan army.

"Egypt and Libya are fighting one war," the official stated.

Earlier, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt had the "right to respond" against IS.

"The air strikes hit their targets precisely, and the falcons of our air forces returned safely to their bases," the Egyptian military's statement said.

"We affirm that avenging Egyptian blood and retaliating against criminals and killers is a duty we must carry out."

A video emerged on Feb. 15 showing people wearing orange overalls being forced to the ground and decapitated.

The five-minute video was similar in style to previous videos showing IS murders of Western prisoners.

IS extremists or its allies have made claims of carrying out a number of attacks in Libya, the North African country that is without an effective government with rival groups bidding for control.

The kidnapped Egyptian workers, all Coptic Christians, were seized in December and January from the coastal town of Sirte in eastern Libya, under the control of Islamist groups, the BBC said.

The men in overalls were forced to kneel and one of the extremists, whose dress was slightly different to the others, speaks to the camera in North American-accented English.

The video of the beheadings was posted online by Libyans who pledge loyalty to IS and which says it is a jihadist group carrying out a holy war in the name of Islam, a claim reviled and disputed by most Moslems.

The killings were described as "barbaric" by al-Azhar, the highly regarded theological institution which is based in Egypt.

Egypt's military said the air strikes were "to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers."

It said, "Let those far and near know that Egyptians have a shield that protects them," and stated that all the aircraft involved in the operation had returned safely.

The United States condemned as "despicable" the beheading of the 21 men in a separate statement.

"The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIS-affiliated terrorists," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

"This heinous act once again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya," Earnest said.

(Photo: REUTERS / Social media via Reuters TV)Men in orange jumpsuits purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State (IS) kneel in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli, in this still image from an undated video made available on social media on February 15, 2015. Islamic State released the video on Sunday purporting to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya. In the video, militants in black marched the captives to a beach that the group said was near Tripoli. They were forced down onto their knees, then beheaded. A caption on the five-minute video read: "The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church." 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.
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