Following the emergence of a graphic video by the Islamic State showing the alleged beheading of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya on Sunday evening, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi convened the Defense Council to discuss the situation and declared a week of mourning.
Sisi also dispatched the foreign minister to the United Nations Security Council, amid reassertions that “cowardly acts would not weaken (Egypt’s) resolve to fight terrorism.”
The Islamic State released photos of the group on Thursday wearing orange jumpsuits, handcuffed, blindfolded, and driven by masked men along a beach, amid unconfirmed reports of their killing. They then released a video Sunday evening titled, “A Message with Blood,” graphically showing the beheading of a group of men, purportedly Egyptian Copts, on a beach in Tripoli.
A masked man states on the video that the beheadings took place in “Islamic Libya, south of Rome,” adding, “We will fight you until Christ descends, breaks the cross and kills the swine.”
The Libyan parliament issued a statement on Saturday confirming the deaths of 21 Copts abducted by the Islamic State in Libya and offering condolences to Egyptians.
The families of those kidnapped in Libya repeatedly criticized what they maintain was a lack of effort by the Egyptian state to find and rescue their loved ones.
According to the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, an emergency meeting was held at the Foreign Ministry on Sunday evening following news about the beheadings, while Sisi held a meeting at the National Defense Council, as speculations of a possible military response from Egypt started spreading.
A statement by the Coptic Orthodox Church read, “The Orthodox Coptic Church and Pope Tawadros II bids farewell to its innocent martyrs, as it is confident that the nation won’t rest until the criminals are punished. We are confident in the state, its institutions and officials taking responsibility, which has been clear since the beginning of the crisis.”
The Social Insurance Ministry issued compensation of LE2400 to each of the families of the deceased Copts, who are all from the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry banned travel to Libya earlier on Sunday amid news of the kidnapping of more Egyptians in Libya.
Ahmed Nassar, the head of the Fisherman’s Syndicate said, during a television appearance on Saturday night, that the Fajr Libya group had further abducted 21 fishermen in the Libyan City of Misrata. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Badr Abdel Atty said news of this latest kidnapping had not been confirmed.
Al-Azhar issued a statement on Sunday calling for the immediate release of the 21 fishermen, urging the kidnappers to “fear god” and spare the souls of the victims.
In a meeting with the families of the kidnappers, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb reportedly said he is willing to turn himself over to the Islamic State in place of the kidnapped fishermen. In response, the Islamic State Of Tripoli wrote on their Twitter account that Mehleb’s offer has been accepted. According to privately owned Al-Watan newspaper, the Tweet read as follows, “To Sisi’s Prime Minister … We accept your offer, come down to Tripoli airport and be honest.”
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with Mehleb on Sunday evening to discuss the situation regarding the hostages, according to the presidential spokesperson.