A video has been released by the Islamic State, reportedly showing 21 Egyptian Christians being beheaded in Libya. The 21 individuals are shown wearing orange overalls. Each one is then forced to the ground and decapitated.
Libyan jihadists released the video earlier today, saying that they are allied with the Islamic State. The beheading of the Egyptian Christians comes only days after Egypt’s president offered to airlift Egyptian expatriates out of Libyan territory. All of the Egyptian workers had been kidnapped, and were all described as Coptic Christians. The Christians were seized from the coastal town of Sire in eastern Libya, which is currently under the control of militant Islamist groups.
The Islamic State released pictures of the kidnapped Christians on Friday, saying they the workers had been “kidnapped to avenge the fate of Muslim women tortured and murdered by the Coptic church of Egypt.”
The Egyptian government had recently warned its citizens not to travel to Libya. However, many apparently head to Libya looking for work.
The foundational roots of Coptic Christianity are observed worldwide but its base of operations is in Cairo. The first Christians in Egypt were common people who spoke Egyptian Coptic. There were also Alexandrian Jews such as Theophilus, whom Saint Luke the Evangelist addressed in the introductory chapter of his gospel. When the church was founded by Saint Mark during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, a great multitude of native Egyptians (as opposed to Greeks or Jews) embraced the Christian faith.
Estimates as to the number of Copts living in Egypt today range from about nine million to 15 million, out of a total population of about 87 million.
The Islamic State titled the video of the beheading of the 21 Christians “A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross.”
Italy closed its embassy in Libya earlier today and stepped up its call for a U.N. mission to calm the worsening conflict there, as thousands of migrants approached Italy by boat from North Africa. According to most reports, Libya is coming apart at the seams politically and socially. Two rival governments operate their own armed forces under separate parliaments.
Italian Foreign Minister Pailo Gentiloni said that Italian staff at the embassy in Libya have been sent back to Italy.
— Feisty☀️Floridian (@peddoc63) February 15, 2015
Egypt declares seven days of mourning after ISIS beheads 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. pic.twitter.com/4xOOdYBZE1
— Breaking News Feed (@PzFeed) February 15, 2015
[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]