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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Egypt launches airstrikes against ISIS in Libya after mass execution of Egyptian Copts

Egyptian airstrikes against the ISIS militants in Libya
(Image: Egypt's Defense Ministry Youtube Channel)
21 Egyptian Copts, abducted in Libyan city of Sirte last year, appeared on a terrible video published by the ISIS militants in Libya on Sunday, 15 February. The video claims to be shot in Libyan Tripoli and shows 21 Egyptian men, dressed in orange jumpsuits, which is the clothes signaling death sentence for the ISIS prisoners, and standing on their knees on the sea shore. Group of the masked men dressed in black guarded them while their leader, also masked, delivered the 5-minute message to Egypt claiming that this mass execution is a revenge for Egypt’s participation in anti-ISIS military operation and airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. All 21 men were publicly beheaded on this extremely graphic video picturing the next terrible execution after the recent execution of a young Jordanian pilot Moaz Al-Kasasbeh.

Spokesperson of Egyptian Orthodox (Coptic) Church Boulos Halim confirmed the identities of all 21 Egyptian men abducted several weeks ago and shown on the ISIS video. Boulos Halim described the video as extremely “painful” and strongly condemned ISIS execution of Egyptians.

Egypt’s Grand Musti Shawki Allam said in a Monday statement that ISIS execution of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya was an act “empty of the great tolerance of Islam” and added that ISIS militants have no understanding of the Holy Qur’an and interpret most of the saying of the Prophet Mohamed terribly wrong. He also mourned the victims of the ISIS execution.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi calls for an urgent
meeting of a National Defense Council
(Image: Asharq Al-Awsat)
Official Egypt demonstrated harsh reaction over the mass killing of the Coptic Egyptians in Libya. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared in a televised address to the people that “Egypt reserves the right to respond in the method and timing it deems suitable for retribution from these killers”. Egyptian President has also declared a week mourning nationwide over the deaths of 21 Egyptian Copts and expressed his condolences to the families and relatives of the victims. He also met with the Head of the Coptic Church in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II, and expressed his condolences during the mess in the Cathedral.

Shortly after the ISIS video was released, Mr. El-Sisi has called for an urgent meeting of a National Defense Council. Early on Monday Egyptian Armed Forces in coordination with the Libyan Armed Forces have launched series of airstrikes targeting ISIS bases in the coastal cities of Darna and Sirte in Libya as a retribution for the ISIS massacre. Libyan Armed Forces Spokesperson Major Mohamed Hegazy has stated that the joint Egyptian and Libyan airstrikes have destroyed training camp of the ISID militants in Darna, their weaponry and storage of the anti-aircraft missiles as well. At least 64 ISIS militants including three leaders were killed as a result of the first airstrike, according to the Libyan officials. No civilian casualties were reported.

Libyan media in their turn reported that Egyptian airstrikes succeeded in destroying several bases and facilities of the Libyan ISIS militants and called on Egypt to continue the offensive in the fight against the terrorism.

Egyptian airstrikes in Libya in retaliation
for the ISIS mass killing of Egyptian
(Image: Twitter)
Later that day Egyptian military jets have carried out the second wave of the airstrikes against the ISIS targets in Libya, targeting ISIS stronghold in the city of Darna.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has declared there will be more airstrikes of Egyptian Armed Forces against the ISIS militants in Libya. He also called on the international community to intervene against Islamic State militants in Libya as they pose the serious threat to the regional and world’s stability and security. Egyptian President has reportedly spoken on the phone with the French President Francois Holland and the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Matteo Renzi urging the international community for an international intervention in Libya. He has also sent Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shukri to New York for the further consultations with the UN officials.

On Tuesday, 17 February, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi delievered  speech at UN Security Council urgent meeting calling for an international intervention in Libya, while Egypt continues its military operation against the IS militants in the neighboring country. In addition to that military roops have been deployed to all Egyptian governorates in order to secure the streets in Egyptian cities, as Egypt has already received the threats of revenge from the IS jihadists.

Egyptian Armed Forces have also intensified security measures on Egyptian-Libyan border as well deploying there additional troops and weapons, according to the military spokesperson Mohamed Samir. 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has also visited the Western border military headquarters on Wednesday, 18 February, where he met with the representatives of the Armed Forces and also with the representatives of the local tribes, discussing the importance of fighting the terrorism in the region. 

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi also called a meeting of the Egyptian authorities and members of the National Defense Council to draw up a plan of an immediate evacuation of all Egyptian citizens from Libya. It was also mentioned that it is necessary to set up close communication with the local authorities in Libya, Libyan tribes and also international organizations in order to secure evacuation of Egyptians from Libya.

Meanwhile more hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, mostly from the poorer regions in Upper Egypt, are still believed to stay in Libya.