Early Monday morning, the Egyptian armed forces struck the ‘Islamic State’ in Libya after ISIS released a video Sunday showing the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians.
“Vengeance for Egyptian blood from killers and criminals is a right and an obligated duty,” the armed forces declared in an official statement.
The same statement said that Monday’s airstrike “hit its targets accurately,” which included camps, training sites, and munitions and weapons warehouses.
The attack “is revenge for the criminal acts conducted by terrorist elements and groups inside and outside the country,” it said.
The Patriarch of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, publically thanked “President Abdel Fattah Sisi and all the institutions of the Egyptian government for the quick response that they gave to this terrorist act.”
He also sent his condolences “to all the families of the martyrs who gave their lives because of their faith.”
Father Hani Bakhoum Kiroulos, secretary of the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate, joined in praising the swift response of the Egyptian government. “The lightning military operation by the Egyptian air force against the bases of the Islamic State in Libya shows that for the government all Egyptian citizens are equal, and that Egypt feels violated as a nation by the bloody delirium of these terrorists,” he said.
“This tragic event is uniting the entire country, Christians and Muslims,” he said. “If they aimed to divide us, their project has failed.”
The Egyptian Presidency has decreed seven days of national mourning for the massacre of the 21 murdered Christians, who had been kidnapped in January in the Libyan city of Sirte.
Just days ago, the families of the kidnapped Copts held a protest in Cairo against the government, accused it of failing to deal with the situation.
In an article published earlier this month in Dabiq, the official magazine of the Islamic State online, jihadists of the Islamic State had promised revenge against the alleged “violence” suffered in the past by Muslim women by the Egyptian Coptic Church. The article portrayed the Copts as “crusaders of Egypt” and refers to the several-year-old story of two Coptic women who, according to the jihadist propaganda, were forced by the Coptic Orthodox Church to recant their conversion to Islam.
Anba Antonios Aziz Mina, the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Guizeh, repudiated ISIS’s rationale for the kidnapping as meaningless propaganda. “These men were kidnapped because they were Egyptians,” he said. “Once the jihadists found out they were Coptic Christians,” they began using “ridiculous arguments, such as those that refer to the Crusades,” to mask their “bloody barbarism with pseudo-ideological arguments,” he said.
President Al-Sisi has now directed the government to strictly forbid Egyptians from going to Libya and to facilitate the return of Egyptians who want to return to Egypt.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.