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Libya: 21 Egyptian Christians brutally executed

16 February 2015

21 Egyptian Christians brutally executed

The Islamic State (IS) in Libya has beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians. In response, there are reports that Egypt has bombed IS targets.

IS released a video showing the apparent beheadings of the Coptic Christians. They were clearly targeted because of their faith: a caption accompanying the video referred to them as 'people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church'.

Most of the 21 kidnapped Copts came from the impoverished village of el-Aour, some 125 miles south of Cairo. They had gone to Libya to find work and were seized in December and January from the coastal town of Sirte. The area is under the control of Islamist groups including IS. The Christians had been depicted in videos and in IS publications dressed in orange overalls. One picture in the IS publication Dabiq, showed five of the Egyptians dressed in orange clothes kneeling on the beach with masked men in black standing behind them. Under it was written 'The humiliated followers of the Coptic Church'.

Libya is home to a very large community of both Muslim and Coptic Egyptians, with most working in the construction sector. These Christians were abducted during two incidents; one group was taken in December at a fake checkpoint, while the remainder were abducted a few days later when militants raided their residential compound. They separated the Christians from Muslims and took the Christians away.

IS active outside of Syria and Iraq

The beheadings show that IS is now exercising influence outside of Syria and Iraq, working through Libyan jihadists who pledge loyalty to IS.

In response, the Egyptian military are reported to have launched air strikes 'to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers'.

Libya is number 13 on the World Watch List. The country has been in chaos since 2011 and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. Since then, numerous militia groups have battled for control. The situation for Christians in Libya has become perilous. Christians face attacks from militant Islamist groups, and violence against Christians has continued on a large scale and with impunity.

A pastor in Libya recently asked Open Doors to pray for 'all those who are Christians in the country, especially the Coptic Christians who have become immediate targets'.

His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, has released a statement saying: 'Our prayers are particularly with the families of these young Coptic men, who were fathers, brothers, sons and friends ... While it may seem illogical or incomprehensible, we also pray for those who have carried out these horrific crimes.'

Source: Open Doors; BBC; Guardian; Reuters; The Coptic Orthodox Church UK

Please pray:

  • For an effective government in Libya and for the return of the rule of law
  • For protection and strength for Christians in Libya, particularly for the tens of thousands of migrant workers, forced by their poverty to seek work in this dangerous country
  • For the militants committing these atrocities, that the Lord might speak to their hearts and change them.

More News from Libya:

Find out more about persecution in Libya.