Egypt’s Department of Legal Medicine has asked members of the families of the ‘Libya martyrs’—the 20 Copts from Minya who were beheaded by Daesh, also known as Islamic State (IS) or ISIL, in Libya January 2015—to head to Minya public hospital for DNA testing, in order to identify the bodies of the martyrs. One first relation of each martyr has been asked to go for a sample to be taken for the DNA testing. The martyrs’ families have willingly responded, expressing joy and hope that the identification of the martyrs would bring closer the return of their bodies, to be buried in Minya. A shrine has been prepared to receive them in the church consecrated to the ‘Martyrs of Faith’ in the village of al-Our in Minya, al-Our being home to 13 of the 20 martyrs. The church was built upon order by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to honour the martyrs; the shrine is in the crypt, under the main altar of the church.
Finding the bodies
Libya’s Interior Ministry had announced on 6 October 2017 that the bodies of the 20 Copts and one Ghanaian beheaded by Daesh in Sirte, Libya, in January 2015, had been found and taken out of their burial site. The Copts’ bodies, the Ministry said, would be shipped to Egypt. The headless bodies were found with chained hands, in the orange jumpsuits and shoes the men had been wearing when they were beheaded.
On 29 September 2017, the Libyan Public Prosecutor Assistant al-Sadiq al-Sour had announced the nationality of the Islamic terrorists who had executed the beheading in 2015. Daesh had then claimed responsibility for the killing, and Egypt had retaliated with air strikes against Daesh camps and arms and ammunition stores in the region.
Mr Sour said that it took a series of complicated procedures to catch one of the militants involved in the crime: the cameraman who videotaped the beheading which took place behind Mahary Hotel west of Sirte, and which sent shivers of horror throughout the whole world.
The arrested militant, who “observed and oversaw the incident,” gave the Libyan authorities all details about the killings, and also informed about where the victims’ bodies were buried. His testimony involved the details of the beheading; he said only one victim resisted but was quickly overpowered by his killer, the others were all absolutely submissive to the fate that awaited them. A number of professional cameras, he said, had been used to film the beheading, under direct supervision of the top IS men in the African region, in order to “terrify the whole world”.
Mr Sour said that the terrorists who executed the crime came from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Chad. He added that the bodies would be dug out and delivered to their families, in coordination with the Egyptian authorities.
Amazed at timing
Egyptians in general received the news of the return of the bodies with poignant comments on social media, welcoming home the present-day martyrs who were killed because they would not deny their Christian faith. Bloggers posted remarks that said the presence of the bodies of the martyrs in Egypt brought the land and nation indescribable blessings.
As to the families of 13 of the martyrs, in the village of al-Our, they received the news with mixed feelings: renewal of grief for the loss of their loved ones, and joy at the prospect of bringing back their bodies for burial at the church built in their honour in the village, which had been barely completed. Father Daoud Nashed of the Bishopric of Samalout, Minya, to which al-Our is affiliated, said that the shrine was initially built to hold their photographs, but now it would house their blessed bodies. Fr Daoud, together with the martyrs’ families were beyond themselves with amazed elation at the timing of the events: that the bodies should come home once the shrine was ready to receive them. He said that Pope Tawadros and Anba Pavnotius, Bishop of Samalout, were closely following with the relevant authorities on the return of the bodies.
5 November 2017