A video released Sunday claimed to show the Islamic State beheading 21 Egyptian Christians abducted in Libya, drawing a vow by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi to make an “appropriate response.” In the video, masked black-suited extremists appear leading the captives in orange jumpsuits to a coastal area identified as the province of Tripoli by the Mediterranean.
The hostages are forced to kneel before they are simultaneously beheaded.
In a televised address Sunday night, al-Sissi said: “Egypt keeps for itself the right to make an appropriate response at the time it sees fit.”
The Egyptian leader was to hold a crisis meeting with the National Defence Council, a body of the country’s top security and cabinet officials, according to state television. Al-Sissi also ordered a week of national mourning.
The Egyptian Coptic Church paid tribute to the slain followers.
“We realize that our great nation will not rest until the evil criminals are dully punished,” the Church said in a statement.
Twenty-one Egyptian Christians, working in neighbouring Libya, were seized in the troubled country more than a month ago. Militants, who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, later claimed to have abducted them.
Several areas in Libya, including Tripoli, are controlled by allied militias as the country is witnessing its worst violence since the ouster of longtime dictator Moamer Gaddafi in the 2011 uprising.
Egyptian media featured Sunday night phone interviews with shocked relatives of some of the captured men paraded in the video posted on a jihadist website.
“What wrong have they made?” the online edition of state-run newspaper al-Ahram quoted an Egyptian man called Maher, who said his brother, Tawadris, was among those decapitated in the video.
“He was there to earn his living. Now Tawadris is dead. Our house is in ruins. May God ruin their [mmilitants’] houses!” Maher added by phone from his hometown in the southern Egyptian province of Minya.
Christians make up around 10 per cent of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population of around 88 million people. The video is titled “A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross.”
A caption then reads: “To the people of the cross, the followers of the hostile Egyptian Church.” Before the alleged executions, a knife-wielding masked militant says in English: “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for especially if you are fighting us altogether.”
The video is elaborately edited like previous footage released by Islamic State showing executions. Earlier this month, Islamic State released a video showing a captured Jordanian pilot burned alive by its members.
The Islamic State controls territory in Syria and neighbouring Iraq. SAPA