Egypt Bombs IS in Libya After Mass Beheading

Egypt Bombs IS in Libya After Mass BeheadingEgypt Bombs IS in Libya After Mass Beheading

Egypt’s military said in a statement on state television that it had carried out an airstrike against Islamic State targets in Libya on Monday, after the militant group released a video on Sunday that allegedly showed the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians who were kidnapped in Libya.

The country’s state news agency MENA quoted the spokesman for the Coptic Church as confirming the victims’ deaths. The group said the killings were revenge for “Muslim women persecuted by Coptic crusaders in Egypt.” It did not elaborate on the accusation.

Egypt’s airstrike focused on IS camps, training sites and weapons storage areas across Egypt’s border in Libya, where militants have thrived amid chaos, AFP said in a report.

On Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi warned that his country would respond to the beheadings as it saw fit.

Speaking on national television hours after the release of the video, Sisi said Egypt would choose the “necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings.”

Egypt had denied reports in the past that it had taken part, along with its close ally the UAE, in airstrikes against IS militants based in Libya.

  Despicable Footage

The footage showing the deaths of the Egyptians appeared on the Twitter feed of a website that supports IS.

In the video, militants in black marched the captives, dressed in orange jumpsuits, to a beach the group said was near Tripoli, Libya. They were forced down onto their knees, then beheaded. A caption on the five-minute video read, “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.”

Before the killings, one of the militants stood with a knife in his hand, saying, “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for.”

The US condemned the “despicable and cowardly murder” of the 21 Egyptians.

Thousands of Egyptians desperate for work, have travelled to Libya since an uprising at home in 2011. Sisi, who met with the country’s top military commanders to discuss the killings, called for a seven-day mourning period, state television reported.

The families of the kidnapped workers had urged Cairo to help secure their release. In the mostly impoverished southerly Minya Governorate, relatives screamed and fainted upon hearing news of the deaths.

  Libya Threat

Egypt, the most populous Arab state, has not taken part directly in the US-led airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria, focusing instead on the increasingly complex insurgency within its own borders.

Militants based in Libya have made contact with Sinai Province, a group operating from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that has changed its name from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and pledged allegiance to IS.

The group has killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police since the army toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

A number of militant groups have been active since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 that left Libya without a strong central government.

Fears that the crisis in neighboring Libya could spill across the border have prompted Egypt to upgrade its military hardware. France and Egypt were set to sign a $6 billion contract on Monday for the sale of 24 Rafale fighter jets, a naval frigate and related military equipment.

  Bahrain Joins Bombings

Bahrain deployed war planes to Jordan, the state news agency BNA said on Sunday, becoming the second Arab state in the Persian Gulf to send warplanes to help in the fight against IS militants in Syria and Iraq.

Jordan has taken a leading role in conducting airstrikes against IS positions in Syria and Iraq since the militants killed a Jordanian pilot who was captured by the group after his plane crashed in Syria in December.

“A group of Bahraini Royal Air Force planes have landed in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to participate in the international effort to annihilate terrorism,” BNA said.

UAE last week sent a squadron of F-16 jet fighters to Jordan to conduct air strikes against ISIL alongside Jordanian planes. UAE had earlier joined a US-led coalition conducting airstrikes against IS. But it had suspended flights, citing concerns about search and rescue capabilities, after the Jordanian pilot was downed.

Jordanian military experts say the ability of the kingdom to sustain its air strikes would soon come under strain, given the 40 mid-life F16 jets the air force has at its disposal.