Egyptian airstrikes hit Islamic State targets in Libya
Bombings follow decapitation of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on Sunday
The Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivering a speech in Cairo after the killing of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. Photograph: EPA/Egyptian presidency handout
Egyptian jets bombed Islamic State targets in Libya on Monday, a day after the group released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians, drawing Cairo directly into the conflict across its border.
Egypt said the predawn strike hit militant camps, training sites and weapons storage areas in the neighbouring oil-producing country, where factional fighting has unleashed virtual anarchy and created havens for jihadi Islamists.
While Cairo is believed to have provided clandestine support to a Libyan general fighting a rogue government in Tripoli, the 21 decapitations pushed president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi into open action, expanding his battle against Islamist militancy.
“And let those near and far know that the Egyptians have a shield that protects and preserves the security of the country, and a sword that eradicates terrorism,” the Egyptian military said in a statement.
‘Long live Egypt’
Libya’s air force also participated in Monday’s attack, which targeted Derna, an eastern coastal city regarded as a base for fighters of the ultraradical Islamic State.
“There are losses among individuals, ammunition and the [Islamic State] communication centres,” Libyan air force commander Saqer al-Joroushi told Egyptian state television, adding that dozens had been killed.
Brigadier Joroushi, who is loyal to Libya’s internationally recognised government, which set up camp in the city of Tobruk after losing control of the capital Tripoli, said there would be more strikes on Tuesday.
Cairo called on the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to broaden the scope of their operations to include Libya, highlighting how the insurgent group has expanded its reach around the Arab world.
The 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians were marched to a beach, forced to kneel and then beheaded on video, which was broadcast on a website that supports Islamic State. The victims were among thousands of unemployed Egyptians desperately seeking work in Libya, despite the risks. Egypt’s foreign ministry said it was banning travel to Libya and had set up a crisis centre to bring home Egyptians.
Thousands of traumatised mourners gathered at the Coptic church in al-Our village, where 13 of the 21 victims were from.
Pope Francis, condemned the beheadings. “They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians,” he said. – Reuters