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US, Egypt condemn 'IS' killings of Christians

February 16, 2015

Egypt and the US have condemned the apparent beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by a group claiming links to Islamic State in Libya. President al-Sisi threatened a 'suitable' punishment for the killings.

Ägypten Präsident Al-Sisi
Image: imago/Xinhua

The US administration has condemned what it called the "despicable and cowardly murder" of 21 Egyptians in Libya by militants claiming affiliation to Islamic State (IS).

"This wanton killing of innocents is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated terrorists against the people of the region, including the murders of dozens of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai, which only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Sunday.

The White House urged a political solution to the conflict in the country: "This heinous act once again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya, the continuation of which only benefits terrorist groups, including ISIL," Earnest said, referring to IS by an acronym.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a televised address on Sunday "Egypt reserves the right to respond in a suitable way and time to punish these murderers." He called a meeting of his defense and interior ministers and military commanders.

The president declared seven days of mourning after a video appearing to show the killings in Libya was distributed by jihadists with links to IS on social media.

The Coptic Church issued a statement saying it was "confident" the killers would be brought to justice. It confirmed the men were Egyptian Copts. Separately, the Islamic learning center Al-Azhar in Cairo denounced what it called the "barbaric" killings.

French military deal with Egypt

The French government is preparing to sign a deal selling Egypt advanced Rafale fighter jets. President Francois Hollande expressed his "concern at the expansion of Daesh in Libya," referring to IS. Fears that the crisis in neighboring Libya could spill over the border have prompted Egypt to upgrade its military hardware.

Hollande has said Egypt will order 24 Rafale fighter jets, a naval frigate and related military equipment in a deal to be signed in Cairo on Monday worth more than 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion).

The UN's mission in Libya called for the killings to be "rejected and denounced by all Libyans."

jm/bw (AFP, AP)