The Libyan Interior Ministry has announced that the bodies of 20 Copts and one Ghanaian beheaded by Daesh (also known as the Islamic State, IS) in Sirte, Libya, in January 2015, have been found and taken out of their burial site. The Copts’ bodies, the Ministry said, will be shipped to Egypt. The headless bodies were found with chained hands, in the orange jumpsuits and shoes the men had been wearing when the were beheaded.
On 29 September 2017, the Libyan Public Prosecutor Assistant al-Sadiq al-Sour announced the nationality of the Islamic terrorists who had executed the beheading in 2015. Daesh had then claimed responsibility for the beheading, 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, were 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.
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 the nation indescribable blessings.
As to the families of 13 of the martyrs, in the village of al-Our in Minya, Upper Egypt, 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 name in the village. The church, which was built to honour the martyrs by direct order from President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi,has been just completed. Father Daoud Nashed of the Bishopric of Samalout, to which al-Our is affiliated, said that a shrine has been built for the martyrs. He said it 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 Anba Pavnotius, Bishop of Samalout, was closely following with the relevant authorities on the return of the bodies.
7 October 2017