For the third time since February, the families of the 20 Egyptian Copts and one Ghanaian Christian beheaded three years ago in Libya by IS have been promised the imminent return of their loved ones’ remains.
The head of investigations at the Libyan Attorney General’s Office, Siddiq Assour, ordered on 5 May that the remains of the victims be transferred to Egypt, reported Egypt Today.
Earlier, forensic samples taken from the bodies had been sent to Egypt for DNA tests, which Assour said had now been completed.
He said “some procedures” still need to be carried out before the bodies are transferred, but that they would not take “a long time”.
On 11 March, the families of the victims designated Fr. Maqar Issa, a priest at Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Al-Our village, and the lawyer of the Samalut Diocese, Attallah Youssef Hanna, to complete the necessary paperwork on their behalf at the National Security Agency in Cairo for the bodies’ return. The families were told that upon successful completion of the documents, the bodies would be returned to them within ten days.
Prior to that, in February, when a new church was inaugurated in Al-Our, Minya province, where the Egyptians came from, the bodies were expected to be received and reburied in one big coffin inside the new church. But the ceremony took place and the bodies still were not returned.
The 21 victims, 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.
IS 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”.
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.
According to Egypt Today, the defendants in the case are due to appear before the court after Ramadan, which ends on 14 June.