TIMEP Strongly Condemns Execution of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya

International Community Must Take Swift Action to Address Increasing Terrorism Threat

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) strongly condemns the heinous execution in Libya of 21 Coptic Christians by militants, most of them Egyptian, and extends its sincerest condolences to the families of those killed. The victims, who had been living in Sirte, Libya, were kidnapped by militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) between December 2014 and January 2015. Their abduction and murder appear to have been religiously motivated.

This incident follows a series of targeted attacks against Christians in Libya over the past several years. An estimated 50,000 Coptic Christians—most of them Egyptian—now live in Libya, many for economic reasons. Egypt’s high unemployment rate and slow economic recovery have led thousands of Egyptians to seek work in Libya, despite the dangerous and highly volatile situation there. A recent call by IS for the murder of Coptic Christians indicates that these risks could soon worsen for Coptic Christians living in Libya and perhaps even elsewhere in the region.

In response to the attacks, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ordered the evacuation of Egyptians living in Libya and has promised to respond to the killings using any “necessary means.” Egypt also launched a series of airstrikes against the Islamic State in Derna, targeting training camps and weapon depots. In response, the Islamic State released pictures of Dernawi civilians killed in the Egyptian airstrikes and vowed to expand its violent campaign in Libya and the Sinai. Libya’s internationally recognized parliament, the House of Representatives, and its Tripoli-counterpart, the General National Congress, have both condemned the attacks, and the Libya Dawn military coalition issued a statement giving Egyptian workers a 48-hour deadline to leave Libya.

Given the Islamic State’s renewed call to target Christians, the Egyptian government must ensure the swift and safe return of all Egyptians seeking to evacuate Libya, and provide adequate financial support to those who return who are in need of aid. Egypt and the international community must act quickly and strategically to confront the growing threat posed by IS and its affiliate groups.

Correction (2/23/2015): TIMEP initially reported that all 21 victims were Egyptian. Information has since emerged that one of the victims was from Ghana. This statement has been amended accordingly.

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The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action.