Tomorrow, 15 February, will mark the third anniversary of the beheading of 20 Egyptian Copts and a Ghanaian Christian, carried out by IS on the Libyan coast. In remembrance of the 21 Christians, a new church is to be inaugurated in Upper Egypt’s Minya province, where the Egyptians came from. As part of the ceremony, the bodies of all 21 were expected to be reburied in one big coffin inside the new church, but the families are still waiting for their loved ones’ remains to be returned to them.
The men, all daily labourers in Libya, were captured in two separate abductions by armed militants on 29 December 2014 and 3 January 2015. The hostage-takers had first confirmed what religion was written on their ID cards, before taking the Christians hostage and letting Muslims go free.
The Islamist militants then released a graphic video depicting the mass beheading of their captives, titled: “A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross”. Video subtitles described the Christians as “people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church”.
The 21 men were hailed as “martyred saints” by the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II.
In October 2017, Libya officially confirmed it had found the bodies of the beheaded Christians. The 21 men were found close to where they were executed on a beach in the coastal city of Sirte. They were found with their hands still tied behind their backs and shrouded in the orange jumpsuits they wore when they were executed.
The location of the bodies was revealed by the captured IS fighter who videotaped the executions. The Libyan public prosecutor’s office described him as “one of the most dangerous” fighters within IS in Libya. The man also told the Libyan authorities that the other militants involved in the executions came from Chad, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.