ISIS VIDEO SHOWS BEHEADINGS OF EGYPTIAN COPTIC CHRISTIANS IN LIBYA
(CNN): In a new propaganda video released Sunday by ISIS, the militant group claims to have beheaded over a dozen members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority on a Libyan beach.
The highly produced video shows an apparent mass execution with jihadists in black standing behind each of the victims, who are all are dressed in orange jumpsuits with their hands cuffed behind them.
The five-minute video, released by the terror group’s propaganda wing al-Hayat Media, includes a masked English-speaking jihadi who says, “The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah, we will mix it with your blood.”
Then on cue, all the victims are pushed to the ground and beheaded.
ISIS has imposed its brutal rule on the large areas of Iraq and Syria that it controls, but the beheadings of the Egyptians appears to have been carried out by an affiliate of the militant group in Libya.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi confirmed in a statement that Egyptian “martyrs” had fallen victim to terrorism and expressed his condolences to the Egyptian people.
El-Sisi called for an urgent meeting of the Council of National Defense and declared seven days of official mourning.
Twenty-one Egyptian Christians were kidnapped in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte in two separate incidents in December and January. Officials said all of them had been killed.
El-Sisi said Egypt reserves the right to retaliate for the killings, according to the state-run website Ahram Online.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Sunday after the grisly video emerged.
“The secretary offered his condolences on behalf of the American people and strongly condemned the despicable act of terror,” the State Department said. “Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Shoukry agreed to keep in close touch as Egyptians deliberated on a response.”
The White House also condemned the attack, saying ISIS’ “barbarity knows no bounds.”
“This wanton killing of innocents is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated terrorists against the people of the region,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.
Members of the U.N. Security Council strongly condemned what they called “the heinous and cowardly apparent murder” of the 21 Egyptians.
“This crime once again demonstrates the brutality of ISIL, which is responsible for thousands of crimes and abuses against people from all faiths, ethnicities and nationalities, and without regard to any basic value of humanity,” the U.N. statement said.
Coptic Christians are part of the Orthodox Christian tradition, one of three main traditions under the Christian umbrella, alongside Catholicism and Protestantism. Copts split from other Christians in the fifth century over the definition of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Copts trace their history to the Apostle Mark, the New Testament figure who they say introduced Christianity to Egypt in A.D. 43. Egypt holds a special place for Coptic Christians because, according to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ family fled there shortly after his birth to escape King Herod, who was calling for the execution of all Jewish boys younger than 2.
The largest group of Copts in the world is still in Egypt, where they make up between 8% and 11% of the nation’s 80 million citizens, most of whom are Sunni Muslims.
In the United States, there are approximately 90,000 Copts organized under 170 parishes, according to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States.
CNN’s Monte Plott, Jethro Mullen, Salma Abdelaziz, Caroline Faraj, Ian Lee, Nana Karikari-apau and Gregory Clary contributed to this report.
ISIS BEHEADINGS IN LIBYA DEVASTATE AN EGYPTIAN VILLAGE
FEBRUARY 17, 2015
Relatives of Egyptian Coptic Christians purportedly murdered in Libya by self-proclaimed Islamic State militants mourn for those killed.
Over the weekend a video emerged apparently showing the Libya branch of the self-proclaimed Islamic State beheading 21 men. All but one were confirmed to be Christian laborers from Egypt.
While this new variation on brutality shocked people around the world, the horror — and sorrow — hit hardest in a small, poor Egyptian town: Residents say 13 of the men were from El-Aour, a hamlet on the Nile River that is a mix of Christians and Muslims.
On the day people found out about the massacre, the local priest says, there were screams coming from every house and every street.
On Tuesday, in order to offer comfort, the church in el-Aour played a recording of a sermon from the late Coptic Pope Shenouda. In it, he describes the virtues of a martyr: A martyr loves God; a martyr is brave.
Relatives bow their heads in prayer, as they’ve done every day since the posting online of the gruesome video showing their loved ones being beheaded, purportedly in Libya’s capital, Tripoli.
Outside, under chirping birds, men gather on one of the narrow, unpaved roads. The loss of so many residents all at once has devastated the community, a farming village of homes made out of cinder block or mud about 150 miles south of Cairo.
Malak Shoukry’s brother, Yousef, is among the dead. He recognized him in the video.
“I prayed for his soul,” he says. “I heard him calling, ‘Oh Jesus,’ as he was beheaded. I’m happy and I’m proud of him. He is a martyr for Christ.”
Abraham Bashr Aziz made it home safely from Libya after witnessing the kidnapping last month — but barely. The 19-year-old carpenter was sharing a house with the other victims, but was in a separate room and hid from the gunmen.
“I heard it and I saw that from the window,” Aziz says. “I heard them screaming, and I heard them asking about the Christians. They just came to kidnap the Christians.”
His voice quakes as he tells the story.
“I was so afraid,” he says.
He says the armed men arrived in four vehicles. They took his friends and relatives from the next room, beat them, cursed them and tied their hands behind their backs with plastic ties.
The gunmen had a list of names, and Aziz’s name was on that list. But he and eight others managed to evade the gunmen. A Libyan friend smuggled them out of the country.
It has been dangerous in Libya for years, and Libyans are living with near-daily assassinations and kidnappings in some parts of the country, as well as an ongoing civil war. But hundreds of thousands of mostly working-class Egyptians still go despite the risks, because they can’t find opportunities at home.
Aziz says he had no choice but to work there.
“I need to live. We’re not going for tourism; there is no work here,” he says, waving to el-Aour’s low-slung homes. “Look at this village.”
Attacks on Coptic Christians in Libya are not new; according to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, 14 Christians, including an entire family, were killed in Libya just last year. The organization is calling on the Egyptian government to protect its citizens in Libya — and vulnerable Coptic Christians in particular. At least five other Coptic Christians were kidnapped last year by unknown gunmen and are still missing.
Nearby, Samuel Shokr says his two uncles and a cousin were among those beheaded by ISIS.
He walks us into the church to show us their pictures on the wall. He says that for the 45 days the men were kidnapped, no one in the Egyptian government did anything.
“We protested outside the presidential palace and no one would see us,” Shokr says. “We tried to contact government officials and no one would answer.
“Yesterday the prime minister came to me here. Why is he coming? He didn’t bring them alive, and he didn’t even bring their bodies. I don’t need him. It’s too late”
For this village, the grief runs deep. They welcome the Egyptian government’s new bombing campaign as an answer to their calls for protection.
Outside of el-Aour, critics say the Egyptian government may be using these deaths as a pretext to fight its enemies beyond ISIS. Meanwhile, Egypt hasn’t even evacuated Egyptians still stranded in Libya.
ISIS BEHEADING OF COPTIC CHRISTIANS ON LIBYAN BEACH BRINGS ISLAMISTS TO THE DOORSTEP OF EUROPE
LIZZIE DEARDEN – Monday 16 February 2015
The beheading of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya has brought Isis to the doorstep of Europe.
The mass murder, which provoked a volley of Egyptian air strikes on the group’s Libyan stronghold of Derna, realised long-held fears of militants reaching the Mediterranean coast.
Isis started in Iraq and now controls swathes of adjoining Syria, including along the Turkish border, as part of its so-called Islamic State.
Its ideology has spread much further, with pledges of allegiance from terrorist groups in Egypt, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen and now Libya.
Days before Isis released its gory video depicting the Egyptians’ beheadings, Libya’s former Prime Minister warned that the group would soon reach the Mediterranean and even Europe if order was not restored in the country.
Ali Zeidan said Libya’s fractured government and easy access to weapons seized during the fall of Colonel Gaddafi made it more susceptible to the activities of jihadists, according to The Times.
“(Isis) are growing. They are everywhere,” he added.
“In Libya, the situation is still under control. If we leave it one month or two months more I don’t think you can control it.
“It will be a big war in the country and it will be here in Europe as well.”
Libya has seen fierce fighting between rival militias since Gaddafi was overthrown during the 2011 Arab Spring.
Mr Zeidan, who fled to Europe after losing a parliamentary vote of confidence, reported that Isis had a growing presence in some of the bigger cities and was trying to recruit fighters from rival Islamist groups.
Aref Ali Nayed, Libya’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, also said Isis’s presence in Libya was increasing “exponentially”.
Its military gains last summer sparked a rush by other Islamist groups in the Middle East and North Africa to ally themselves with the group by pledging allegiance and changing their names.
The jihadists behind the beheadings in Libya call themselves the Tripoli Province of the Islamic State.
Egyptians protest what they characterise as Government inaction in reaction to the kidnapping of Copts in Libya, Cairo, Egypt, 13 February 2015As the turmoil in Libya continued last year, they gained control of the port city of Derna and nearby Sirte, where Isis seized the murdered Coptic hostages in December and January.
The location of their murders could not be confirmed but footage showed them dressed in orange jumpsuits kneeling on a beach. Behind each of them were masked militants who wielded their knives to kill the bound hostages simultaneously.
Isis affiliates have also claimed responsibility for attacks on the Egyptian military and police in the Sinai Peninsula, further along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Gaza.
WHEN WILL THE WEST OWN UP TO THE ROLE IT’S PLAYED IN THE IMPLOSION OF LIBYA?
No one even considers whether we bear some responsibility for this appalling situation, because Libya is in a far worse state than it was under Gaddafi!
NIGEL FARAGE – Thursday 19 February 2015
The scenes witnessed this week – of the 21 Christians being marched along the beach in Libya, in their orange jumpsuits, and their subsequent beheadings – which I pointedly refused to watch online – marked a new low point in the advance of Isis.
We also see scenes every week of large numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya in search of a new life in Europe.
What I find astonishing is that no one even considers whether, perhaps, we bear some responsibility for this appalling situation. The bravado of the then President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron for yet another foreign bombing engagement surprised me at the time we were taking this action in Libya.
What was even more astonishing, despite years of questionable grind in Afghanistan and Iraq, was the lack of criticism from elected politicians in the UK. Indeed, when the House of Commons voted on the Libyan military intervention, only 12 MPs out of 650 voiced their opposition.
A further irony of the earlier part of the bombing campaign was that the Royal Air Force was making 3,500-mile round trips from Norfolk because Britain had no active aircraft carriers. We were told that the mission was a necessity to stop a potential massacre in Benghazi. We had decided to take sides with the “rebels” against Colonel Gaddafi. As an opponent of the bombings, one of my principle concerns, which I raised at the time, was: did we know who the rebels were, and was it not a fact that the British Army in Iraq had found that many of the most extreme militants had indeed come from Eastern Libya?
These comments and the objections of a dozen MPs were simply brushed aside by a media consensus that our political class must be right. I am in no doubt that Libya after our intervention is in a far worse state than it was under Gaddafi. I know that when I say these things, I will be portrayed as being a Gaddafi supporter. But not only is that untrue, it is also not the point.
Libya is one of an endless series of military interventions in which we have left things worse than before we intervened. And you only need to look as far as how Christians are targeted across the Middle East and North Africa region to see what kind of road we have paved for the terrorists of Isis. In Iraq, in Syria, in Libya and beyond, Christians have not only been thrown to the lions as a result of our hasty, shoestring interventions, but what are we doing to assist them now that our government has created the conditions in which they can be so easily rounded on? I would say whatever it is, it is nowhere near enough given our complicity in their slaughter.
I wonder whether we will ever learn. Perhaps one point of optimism is that William Hague has now gone as Foreign Secretary after attempting to get the House of Commons to re-run Libya on a grander scale in Syria. If in the next parliament, Ukip are fortunate enough to find themselves in a position of numerical influence, we will not support foreign military interventions unless we can clearly see that such actions are in the national interest, and that there is a clear strategic endgame in sight.
I say this not as pacifist, but as somebody who believes that going to war is the most serious thing any government can do. It is an undertaking that in recent times has been taken far too lightly.
EGYPT LAUNCHES STRIKES ON ISIS POSITIONS AFTER MILITANT GROUP RELEASED VIDEO OF COPTIC CHRISTIAN HOSTAGES
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed to avenge the beheading on Sunday night
JAMES RUSH – Monday 16 February 2015
Egypt has launched air strikes against Isis targets in Libya after the militant group posted a gruesome video online purporting to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian hostages.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed to avenge the beheading on Sunday night, saying the country reserved the right to respond in a way it sees fit.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis described the 21 murdered hostages as “martyrs”, saying they were “killed simply because they were Christians”.
A second airstrike against Isis, also known as the Islamic State, struck Derna – the target of the first round of strikes – once again. Sources have indicated that the strikes have the approval and coordination of the international recognised Libyan government.
The commander of Libya’s air force, Saqer al Joroushi, claimed that “at least 50” militants had been killed in the strikes, theWall Street Journal reported.
In a statement made on state radio, a spokesman for the Egyptian Armed Forces General Command said the warplanes had targeted training camps and weapons caches in the eastern city of Derna, Libya, before returning safely, in the first wave of strikes.
It said the strikes were “to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers”.
“Let those far and near know that Egyptians have a shield that protects them,” it said.
Libyan security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Associated Press that civilians were killed in the strikes. They claimed three women and two children had died in the Egyptian airstrikes.
Meanwhile, Libya Dawn, a moderate Islamic faction that presently controls Tripoli, has condemned the strikes. A spokesperson said they were “an assault against Libyan sovereignty”.
But this claim was disputed by Mr al Joroushi, of the Libyan armed forces, who said the attacks had been conducted with full respect to the nation’s sovereignty, but added that the country would not allow boots on the ground.
The video showing the mass beheading of Egyptian Coptic Christian hostages has sparked worldwide revulsion since it was posted online yesterday.
In the UK, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “Such barbaric acts strengthen our determination to work with our partners to counter the expanding terrorist threat to Libya and the region.
“Acts of terrorism should not be allowed to undermine Libya’s political transition.
“We remain fully supportive of the UN’s efforts to build a national unity government for Libya and to bring a political solution to the ongoing security crisis. Those who support terrorists can have no part in this process.”
The US meanwhile has described the act as “despicable” and “cowardly”. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the militant group’s barbarity “knows no bounds”, adding that the the killings underscored the need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya. –(Comment by Mode of Life: “Ironic when one considers that it was the US that has been one of the most prominent proponents and supporters of groups like ISIS. This is mere bluster and crocodile tears!“)
Additional reporting by AP
EGYPTIANS MOURN COPTIC CHRISTIANS BEHEADED BY ISIS
By ARIEL COHEN 18/02/2015
Hundreds of Christians gathered at a Coptic liturgy at Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo on Tuesday evening.
Families of the victims also gathered in the church. Of the 21 men executed by Islamic State, all were Christian. The Copts were taken hostage by the Islamic State last month while residing in Surt, Libya.
In the video produced by Islamic State media, “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross,” the Copts were beheaded by the militants. In the video, militants suggested that these killings were in response to both the death of Osama bin Laden as well as a five-year-old dispute over the disappearance of a Coptic Christian woman.
The Egyptian government knew of the disappearance of the victims 45 days before their death, but refrained from taking action to rescue them, according to a statement from the Mapsero Youth Movement. Furthermore, they claim that even though the families of the victims repeatedly begged the government to intervene, they choose silence over action.
On Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi announced seven days of national mourning in reaction to the killings. In a televised address he said that Egypt would take necessary action to avenge the deaths. On Monday morning Egypt announced that it had carried out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Libya.
Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb announced in an official statement that the families of the victims will be granted “martyr privileges,” including pensions from the Ministry of Social Solidarity as well as a new church to be built in Al-Minya, in honour of the victims.
ENDNOTE: UPDATES FROM EGYPT
Following the news of the murders in Libya, Christians in the various dioceses of Egypt began praying and fasting, as the government called for seven days of national mourning. Several Egyptian bishops have spoken about constructing churches, dedicated to the 21 martyrs, in their dioceses.
Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab announced President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi would arrange state funds for the construction of a church dedicated to the 21 martyrs in the Egyptian city of Minya, from which many of the victims hailed. In addition, by presidential decree, the victims’ families will receive financial compensation for the death of their loved ones (about $13,000), as well as a monthly stipend. The families are asking that the remains of their loved ones be returned to Egypt for burial.
Al-Sisi, who also has referred to the 21 Christians as “martyrs,” paid a personal visit to Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II on Monday to extend his condolences.