Egypt strikes Libya jihadists after beheadings video
CAIRO - Agence France-Presse
In this Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 photo, a Coptic Christian woman prays for the release of 21 Coptic Egyptian men. AFP PhotoEgypt carried out air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Libya on Feb.16 after the jihadists posted a video showing the decapitation of 21 Coptic Christians, the military said.
"Your armed forces on Monday carried out focused air strikes in Libya against Daesh camps, places of gathering and training, and weapons depots," the military said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
State television showed footage of Egyptian fighter jets it said were taking off to conduct the strikes.
"The air strikes hit their targets precisely, and the falcons of our air forces returned safely to their bases," the military's statement said.
"We affirm that avenging Egyptian blood and retaliating against criminals and killers is a duty we must carry out."
The air strikes came hours after the jihadists posted gruesome footage of the beheadings on the Internet, sparking outrage in Egypt and demands for revenge.
A visibly angry President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt "reserves the right to respond in a suitable way and time" in a televised speech, and declared seven days of mourning.
The footage shows 21 handcuffed hostages wearing orange jumpsuits being beheaded by their black-suited captors on a beach the group said was in the Libyan province of Tripoli.
In the latest issue of the ISIL online magazine Dabiq, the group had said the same number of Egyptian hostages were being held in Libya.
The Coptic Church issued a statement saying it was "confident" the killers would be brought to justice as it confirmed those beheaded were Egyptian Copts, while Al-Azhar, the prestigious Cairo-based seat of Islamic learning, denounced the "barbaric" killings.
Egyptian state television broadcast some of the footage from the ISIL video without showing the beheadings but depicting the hostages marched along by their captors on a beach.
White House slams ISIL Libya 'beheading'
The United States condemned as "despicable" ISIL's apparent beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians.
"The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
"ISIL's barbarity knows no bounds. It is unconstrained by faith, sect, or ethnicity," Earnest added, saying the latest bloodshed "only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL".
France, Egypt urge 'new measures'
French President Francois Hollande and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke by telephone after the gruesome footage was released by the ISIL branch in Libya.
"The two heads of state discussed the situation in Libya and the spread of Daesh operations in the country," read a statement from the French presidency, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
"They highlighted the importance that the Security Council meet and that the international community take new measures to face up to this danger."
The two countries will on Monday ink a deal in which France is selling 24 Rafale fighter jets to Cairo, in its first foreign sale of the multi-role combat aircraft.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was to travel to Cairo later Monday to ink the 5.2-billion-euro ($5.9 billion) deal for 24 Rafale fighters that Paris hopes will prompt others to snap up its premier combat jet.