Egypt launched airstrikes on Feb. 16 against Islamic State targets in Libya in response to a newly-released beheading video, which apparently shows 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians being executed.
The Guardian reports a spokesman for the Egyptian Armed Forces General Command read a statement announcing the strikes on Egyptian state radio on Feb. 16. The airstrikes targeted Islamic State — sometimes called ISIS or ISIL — training camps and weapon caches “to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers,” the statement said.
“Let those far and near know that Egyptians have a shield that protects them,” the statement continued.
The airstrikes mark the first time Egypt has acknowledged taking such action against the Islamic extremists inside the borders of Libya. They came just hours after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed a “suitable response” to the beheading video of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who are believed to have been abducted in January, according to the Daily Mail.
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Egyptian Coptic Christians are an ancient Christian sect. According to a report from The Independent, they make up the largest Christian community in the Middle East. There are estimated to be between six and 11 million members, which account for roughly 10 percent of the Egyptian population.
The Islamic State affiliates who released the video said it is “a message signed in blood to the people of the cross.” In it, 21 men in orange jumpsuits are led along a beach, each accompanied by a masked militant dressed in all-black. The men are made to kneel, then one militant, dressed differently than the others, speaks into the camera in English.
“All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes, especially if you are fighting us all together. Therefore, we will fight you all together,” he says. “The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”
The 21 prisoners are then forced to lie face-down and are all apparently beheaded.
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The speaker points to the north and says, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” The video then shows blood mixing with the waves on the beach.
A statement from al-Sisi's office later called for a seven-day mourning period for those killed.
“It is with deep sorrow that President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi mourns the Egyptian victims of an abhorrent act of terrorism in Libya and offers his deepest condolences to the Egyptian people for their grave loss,” the statement said.
The Coptic Christian church released a message urging followers to have “confidence that their great nation won’t rest without retribution for the evil criminals.”