16 Feb 2015

Egypt and Libya strike Islamic State after beheadings video

Egypt carries out an airstrike against an Islamic State-affiliated group in Libya in retaliation for the apparent beheading of 21 Egyptians.

Above: footage released by the Egyptian military of fighter jets taking off to target Islamic State positions on Sunday night.

Egypt’s military targeted Islamic State positions at dawn on Monday, the day after the militant group released a video appearing to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. The attack focused on camps, training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya.

Following the release of the beheading video, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed to “avenge the criminal killings” and late on Sunday night the Egyptian military released footage of fighter jets taking off to target “Daesh” (a derogatory name for the Islamic State group).

On Monday the Libyan airforce was also reported to be carrying out attacks in the eastern Libyan city of Derna – where Islamic State affiliates are present.

Libyan military commander Saqer al-Joroushi said the strikes had been coordinated with Egypt. “More air strikes will be carried out today and tomorrow in coordination with Egypt,” Mr Joroushi told al-Arabiya television.

Mr Joroushi also said Libyan warplanes had hit targets in the cities of Sirte and Ben Jawad. He said “not less than 40 to 50” militants had been killed.

The IS video, released on Sunday, showed the 21 Egyptians being marched to a beach, forced to kneel, and then beheaded. They had gone to Libya to find jobs.


However, an opposition parliament based in Tripoli, which is supported by some Islamist groups, condemned the strikes, calling it an attack on the country’s sovereignty. Spokesman Omar Homaydan said: “We strongly condemn the Egyptian aggression this morning on Derna and consider it to be an assault against Libyan sovereignty.”


British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond condemned the executions, saying: “Such barbaric acts strengthen our determination to work with our partners to counter the expanding terrorist threat to Libya and the region.”

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

Last month Sinai Province killed at least 30 Egyptian security personnel in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Several militant groups in Libya have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group including Ansar al-Sharia, which took part in the 2012 Benghazi attack.

Last month a group calling itself the Islamic State in Libya carried out a deadly attack on a hotel in Tripoli.