Islamic State Beheads 21 Egyptian Christians, Retaliatory Airstrikes Kill Libyan Civilians
Egyptian airstrikes carried out in retaliation for the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by Islamic State fighters have killed at least seven Libyan civilians.
Al Jazeera reports three children were among the dead after Egyptian warplanes pounded IS targets in the coastal city of Derna after Egyptian military dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi vowed to “punish” those responsible for the recent brutal slaughter of 21 Egyptian Christians.
On Sunday, the New York Times reported that IS released a graphic video, titled “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross,” showing the Egyptians, who had traveled to Libya looking for work, clad in orange jumpsuits and being forced to kneel on a beach before masked fighters identified as members of the Tripolitania Province of the Islamic State slit their throats in unison.
“Jesus help me,” some of the doomed Christians cried out before being executed.
In a televised address following the gruesome video’s release, el-Sisi, who seized power in a July 2013 coup that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power, said Egypt would choose the “necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings.”
On Monday, Egyptian military officials said their warplanes had attacked IS camps, training sites and weapons depots.
“The airstrikes hit their targets precisely, and the falcons of our air forces returned safely to their bases,” the Egyptian military said in a televised report. Reuters reports Libyan jets also participated in the bombing. A Libyan air force commander said 40-50 militants were killed in the strikes.
Images from Derna showed bombed-out residential neighborhoods. Omar al-Hassi, the head of Libya’s legally installed government in the capital, Tripoli, denounced the Egyptian attack as “sinful aggression” and “terrorism.”
“This horrible assault and this terrorism that’s been conducted by the Egyptian military represents a violation of sovereignty in Libya and is a clear breach of international law and the UN charter,” al-Hassi said.
But Libya is currently divided by two governments, with internationally recognized leader, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, pleading for NATO airstrikes to defeat the Libya Dawn Islamist militants controlling the capital.
“I ask world powers stand by Libya and launch military strikes against these groups,” al-Thinni said. “This threat will move to European countries, especially Italy.”
US President Barack Obama expressed support for Egypt’s military dictatorship, condemning the “despicable and cowardly” mass beheading and offering his condolences to the victims’ families. Obama once again refused to call the perpetrators of the slayings Islamist terrorists and he also raised conservative eyebrows and ire by calling the victims “Egyptians” instead of “Christians.”
The United States is currently waging war against IS in Iraq and Syria; al-Thinni wants the American-led coalition to expand the fight against the Islamists into Libya.
In the wake of the latest IS mass-murder, Egypt and France called on the United Nations Security Council to consider more aggressive measures to combat the Islamist group, which vowed to “conquer Rome” in the beheading video. Italy expressed particular concern about IS, with Interior Minister Angelino Alfano warning that “ISIS is at the door.”
“There is no time to waste,” Alfano asserted.
Libya has been in a state of chaos since NATO-backed rebels, some of them Islamists with ties to al-Qaeda and IS, ousted longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011 after an eight-month civil war, part of the Arab Spring revolts that swept the region that year.
There are hundreds of armed groups in Libya, most of them at odds—and often war—with each other. Once united in the fight against Gaddafi, they are now engaged in a brutally bloody struggle for power and control of the nation’s vast fossil fuel resources.
According to GlobalSecurity.org:
Libya is caught up in chaos with its Congress deadlocked between Islamists and a leading nationalist party, with infighting between the National Forces Alliance party, and the Islamist Justice and Construction party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya. The National Forces Alliance (NFA) was formed in 2012 by liberal war-time leader Mahmoud Jibril. The nascent army is struggling to assert itself against unruly former rebels, tribal groups and Islamist militants.
Tagged Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Abdullah al-Thinni, Barack Obama, Coptic Christians, Egypt, Egypt bombs Libya, Islamic State, Islamic State beheads 21 Christians, Libya, Libya Dawn, Omar al-Hassi, Tripolitania Province of the Islamic State