The dawn hours of today, Monday, saw the Egyptian Air Force planes carry out airstrikes against IS sites in Darna, Libya, targeting camps and weapons storage sites. A military spokesman announced the news, saying that the Egyptian warplanes have achieved their targets and returned safely to basecamp.
The air raids came in retaliation for the beheading of 21 Copts who had been kidnapped by IS in two separate incidents last December and January. The Copts were in Libya for work. Sunday evening, IS posted a video showing the 21 men in orange jumpsuits being led along in a row a beach, each accompanied by a masked IS man in black. The Copts were made to kneel and were simultaneously beheaded. One militant, not in black, addressed the camera in English explaining that the beheadings were in retaliation against the “hostile Church of Egypt”.
The video sent shock waves through Egypt. In a televised address President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi declared a seven-day mourning period; condemned the “abhorrent act of terrorism”; condoled Egypt, the Church, and the families of the victims; and promised revenge. “Egypt reserves the right of retaliation, and with the methods and timing it sees fit for retribution from those murderers and criminals who have not the slightest humanity,” he said.
The President gave orders to the government to impose a travel ban to Libya, and assigned the Foreign Minister to head to the United Nations to discuss the crisis.
Monday morning, he visited Pope Tawadros II at St Mark’s Cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo, to offer him condolences.
The Council of Egypt Churches issued a statement in which it offered the Church’s condolences to the entire homeland. The statement said: “We leave it to the Divine Judge of the whole world to work justice”, and said the Church was praying for all Egypt, the unity of her people, and peace for her lands.
In Samalout, Minya, some 200km south of Cairo—the hometown of the beheaded Copts—Anba Pavnotius, Bishop of Samalout said he was considering holding funerary prayers for the deceased even without their bodies being there.
Minya Governor Salah Eddin Ziyada said he will be accepting condolences at noon today in the church of Mar-Morqos (St Mark) in Samalout.
Scores of Copts living and working in Libya have been killed. In a crime that raised public agony and outrage, a Coptic doctor and his wife were killed and their teenage daughter kidnapped when masked men broke into their home in Sirte last December. The body of the daughter was later found with two bullets in her chest and one in the head.
Last year, the bodies of seven Copts were found near the city of Benghazi.
The Foreign Ministry has constantly reiterated warning to all Egyptians residing in Libya, calling on them to avoid conflict areas. It also kept renewing its travel alert to the neighbouring country, urging those travelling to Libya to secure a visa from the Libyan embassy prior to their travel. Egypt renewed its warning against travel to Libya in December.
Thousands of Egyptians work in Libya, primarily in the construction industry.
16 February 2015