02/16/2015, 00.00
EGYPT-LIBYA-ISLAM

Egypt launches air strikes against the Islamic State in Libya, after the beheading of 21 Copts

Training camps and military arsenals in Libya targeted. Al-Sisi states that "Egypt and the entire world" must counter the Islamist challenge. Video released of the beheading of 21 Egyptian workers. Strong confessional connotation as a "revenge" against "people of the cross". "We are just south of Rome." Italian embassy in Tripoli evacuated.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - The Egyptian Air Force carried out dawn raids on Islamic State (IS) positions in Libya. State television announced the military operation, following the release online of an IS video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts. The raid targeted training camps and military arsenals near the border with Libya.

Yesterday, after the release of the video on the execution of 21 Egyptians, in a televised speech, President Abdelfattah Al Sisi said that Egypt "reserves the right to respond in a suitable way and time". He also declared seven days of mourning in the country for the killing of 21 Egyptians.

The video shows the 21 hostages handcuffed and wearing the orange jumpsuit of the condemned. After a short walk to a beach, they are made to kneel and are beheaded by 21 masked executioners dressed in black (see photo).

Rumors of the execution had filtered through days before and Egypt had sought confirmations. From the beginning the prisoners were branded as "Copts", emphasizing the confessional character of the execution, although it is likely that 21 victims were in Libya only for work. Most of them came from poor areas of Upper Egypt.

The Coptic Church has however confirmed that those executed are Coptic faithful and "trust" that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. The University of Al Azhar, the undisputed authority of the Islamic world based in Cairo, has condemned the execution as a "barbaric" gesture.

The IS video is titled " A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross " and defines the hostages "people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church ". The alleged "hostility" of the Coptic Church is explained in a caption that appears after the beheading, which says: " The filthy blood is just some of what awaits you, in revenge for Camilia and her sisters".

The rreference is to an episode dating to 2004, and concerns two women, Wafa 'Constantine and Camelia Shehata, wives of two priests, who had marital problems. According to the jihadists, they converted to Islam and were kidnapped by the Church and hidden. In fact, it is true that women had marital problems, but it is not true that they converted. The late head of Al-Azhar, Tantawi, has decreed that there is no proof of their conversion. In time, the two women were handed over to the Church, for fear of possible kidnapping by Islamic movements, and they were brought to some monasteries. This story regularly returns in the narratives of Muslim fundamentalists to justify the terrorist acts against Christians.

Egypt is alleged to have already launched air strikes against the Islamists in Libya last year.

Since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been plunged into an institutional and military chaos, since many militias are inspired by the jihad. A few months ago some of them officially declared alliance with the IS.

For Al-Sisi " Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups carrying extremist ideology and sharing the same goals". As if to confirm, in the video, one of the Executioners with his face covered and waving a knife in front of the camera warns in English: " Today we are in the south of Rome, in the land of Islam Libya... the sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden's body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood".

Yesterday, due to the high tension, Italy closed its embassy in Tripoli, asking all nationals to leave the country.

 

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