2015 kidnapping and beheading of Copts in Libya

On February 12, 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) released a report in their online magazine Dabiq showing photos of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian construction workers that they had kidnapped in the city of Sirte, Libya, and whom they threatened to kill to "avenge the [alleged] kidnapping of Muslim women by the Egyptian Coptic Church".[3] The men, who came from different villages in Egypt, 13 of them from Al-Our, Minya Governorate,[4] were kidnapped in Sirte in two separate attacks on December 27, 2014, and in January 2015.[5] This was not the first time that Egyptians in Libya have been the subject of abuse for political reasons, a pattern that goes back to the 1950s.[6]

21 Martyrs of Libya
Coptic Icon of 21 Holy Martyrs of Libya
BornOne from Ghana; other 20 Martyrs from Egypt
Died15 February 2015[1]
Sirte, Libya[2]
Venerated inCoptic Orthodox Church
CanonizedFebruary 21, 2015, Cathedral of the Martyrs of the Faith, Samalut, Minya, Egypt by Pope Tawadros II
Major shrineChurch of the Martyrs of the Faith, Samalut, Egypt
Feast15 February ( 8 Amshir )
AttributesOrange jumpsuit's, Martyr's palm

Prior, in 2014, a militia group in eastern Libya declared its affiliation with ISIL and then took over parts of Derna in late 2014. People allied to the group claimed responsibility for attacks across the country, including the Corinthia Hotel attack in January 2015.[7][8]

On April 19, 2015, ISIL released another video in which they murdered about 30 Ethiopian Christians.[9][10][11][12][13][14]


On February 15 a five-minute video was published, showing the beheading of the captives on a beach along the southern Mediterranean coast. A caption in the video called the captives the "People of the Cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church".[5] In the video, the leader was dressed in camouflage, while the other terrorists were dressed in black. The victims were all dressed in orange jumpsuits, as in many previous ISIL videos. The leader declared in North-American English:

Oh people, recently you've seen us on the hills of Al-Sham [Greater Syria] and on Dabiq's Plain, chopping off the heads that had been carrying the cross delusion for a long time, filled with spite against Islam and Muslims, and today we… are sending another message: Oh crusaders, safety for you will be only wishes especially when you're fighting us all together, therefore we will fight you all together until the war lays down its burdens and Jesus peace be upon him will descend, breaking the cross, killing the swine. The sea you've hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden's body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.[15]

After beheading the hostages, a message appears on the screen: "The filthy blood is just some of what awaits you, in revenge for Camelia and her sisters"[15][16] (referencing Camelia Shehata, a Coptic Egyptian woman and wife of a Coptic priest who Islamists believe had converted to Islam and was detained by the Coptic Church because of it. She later denied the claim). Finally the speaker declares "We will conquer Rome, by Allah's permission," pointing his knife toward the sea.[8] As in other ISIL videos, the captives wore orange jumpsuits, intended as a reference to the attire of prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.[8] The group of killers identified itself in the video as the "Tripoli Province" of ISIL.[8] The leader of the squad performing the killings was identified as a Libyan expatriate who goes by the nom de guerre Al Qaqa'a Ben Omro.[17]

The Coptic Church of Egypt, Egyptian government, as well as the Libyan parliament,[18] confirmed the deaths.

Following the release of the video, several experts argued that it had been digitally manipulated and that the actual murders were likely filmed in front of a green screen and then superimposed onto the footage of the beach. The videos were manipulated to show the militants as being seven feet tall in order to propagate fear. Although there were manipulations done to the video, experts confirm that the 21 Christians were killed.[19]

Later, when one of the perpetrators of the operation was arrested, he admitted in the investigation that the slaughter had taken place at the beach opposite Al Mahary Hotel in Sirte.[20][21][22][23][24]


The President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced a seven-day period of national mourning and called for an urgent meeting with the country's top security body.[25] In a televised address, al-Sisi declared his country reserved the right for retaliation.[8] He also reiterated an offer to facilitate Egyptians' evacuation from Libya and imposed a travel ban on citizens to Libya.[8] Al-Azhar also condemned the incident.[26] The killings were also addressed particularly by the United Nations Security Council, French President François Hollande and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.[27][28] Roman Catholic Pope Francis telephoned Coptic Pope Tawadros II to offer his condolences. At an ecumenical meeting with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Francis stated "They only said 'Jesus help me ...' The blood of our Christian brothers is testimony that cries out. Be they Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it doesn't matter: They're Christian!"[29] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary provided financial support of €500 for each families of the victims. Péter Szijjártó said "Hungary cannot be a bystander of the continuous attacks against Christian communities in the Middle East".[30] The Obama administration was criticized for referring to the victims simply as Egyptian citizens rather than Christians, the express reason for their murder.[31]

Egyptian airstrikes

On February 16 at dawn Egyptian military conducted airstrikes on ISIL facilities in Libya.[5] The airstrikes targeted ISIL training locations and weapons stockpiles.[32] All military aircraft returned safely to base.[32] Libyan air force also conducted strikes in Derna, occupied by an ISIL affiliate since 2014.[32] About 40–50 militants and 7 civilians were reportedly killed.[32][33]

Canonized as saints

On February 21, 2015 the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II announced that the 21 murdered Copts would be commemorated as martyr saints on the 8th Amshir of the Coptic calendar, which is February 15 of the Gregorian calendar. The commemoration falls on the feast day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.[34]

21st victim

After the beheadings, the Coptic Orthodox church released their names, but there were only 20 names. In the video, the leader's victim was of black African descent, in contrast to the others, who were ethnic Copts. It was later learned that this 21st victim was named Matthew Ayariga and that he was from Ghana. (A few sources say he was from Chad, but most say he was from Ghana.)[35][36][37][38][39][40][41]

According to some sources, he was not originally a Christian, but he saw the immense faith of the others, and when the terrorists asked him if he rejected Jesus, he reportedly said, "Their God is my God", knowing that he would be killed.[42][43]

However, he may have already been a Christian, because other sources report that he said "I am a Christian and I am like them".[44]

When the remains of the victims were found, the bodies of the 20 Egyptians were returned, but there was some sadness among the Copts because Ayariga's body was not with them when they were buried. Many of the friends and families of the other victims want him to be buried there too, because he was killed with them.[44]

Return of the remains

After the expulsion of fighters of the Islamic state organization from the Libyan city of Sirte, government authorities announced it has found a place where the bodies of Coptic martyrs were buried. This was done after the government authorities and the Libyan army arrested one of the terrorists who was present during the slaughter.[45][46][47] The Libyan Attorney General has ordered cooperation with the Egyptian authorities to send DNA samples taken from the families of the martyrs to be compared with DNA samples taken from the remains of the martyrs.[48][49][50]

Later, it was ascertained that the remains belonged to the Coptic martyrs after comparing the samples of the DNA from martyrs families they sent by Egyptian Forensic Medicine Authority with DNA samples taken from the remains by the Libyan Forensic Medicine Commission.[51][52][53][54][55][56]

On 15 May 2018, the remains of the 20 Egyptians (the body of the Ghananian, Matthew Ayariga, was not on the plane), were returned to the cathedral, which was built for them and named after them (Church of martyrs of faith and homeland) in martyrs village (formerly Al Aour or Al Awar or Al Our Egyptian Arabic: قرية العور) in Minya governorate.[57] A special shrine has been built in which the remains were laid, So that people can visit. Churches and monasteries bells were rung all over Egypt when the remains arrived on board a plane coming from Misrata Airport in Libya to Cairo International Airport;[58] Celebrations of the return of their remains to the homeland. They were received by Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and a large number of priests and Ambassador Nabila Makram the Egyptian minister of Immigration and Egyptians Affairs Abroad and officials of the organs of the state at the airport.[59][60][61] The Holy Mass in church was presided over by Bishop of Samalout Anba Baphnotius.[62][63][64][65][66][67][68]


Bishoy Adel KhalafSamuel Alhoam WilsonHany Abdel-Masih Salib
Melad Mackeen ZakiAbanoub Ayad AttiaEzzat Bushra Nassif
Yousef Shokry YounanKirillos Shukry FawzyMajed Suleiman Shehata
Somali Stéphanos KamelMalak Ibrahim SiniotBishoy Stéphanos Kamel
Mena Fayez AzizGirgis Melad SnioutTawadros Youssef Tawadros
Essam Badr SamirLuke NgatiJaber Mounir Adly
Malak Faraj AbramSameh Salah FaroukMatthew Ayariga[69][70]



The lives of the beheaded Copts has been detailed in a book by Martin Mosebach called The 21 - A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs.[72][73]

See also


  1. "لماذا-اعتمد-المجمع-المقدس-15-فبراير-عيد-ا-لشهداء-الكنيسة-".
  2. "Libya: Confessions of a witness to the slaughter of Copts". Al Arabiya. 7 October 2017.
  3. El-Gundy, Zeinab (12 February 2015). "Islamic State publishes report on Coptic Egyptian workers kidnapped in Libya". Al-Ahram. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  4. "Thousands mourn Egyptian victims of Islamic State in disbelief". Reuters. 16 Feb 2015. Retrieved 26 Feb 2015.
  5. "ISIL video shows Christian Egyptians beheaded in Libya". Al Jazeera. 16 Feb 2015. Retrieved 16 Feb 2015.
  6. Tsourapas, Gerasimos (17 March 2015). "The Politics of Egyptian Migration to Libya". Middle East Research and Information Project. Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  7. "Islamic State takes Libyan city; 100K under terror group's control as chaos spreads". The Washingtion Times.
  8. Jared Malsin (February 15, 2015). "Beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya Shows ISIS Branching Out". Time. Retrieved 16 Feb 2015.
  9. "ISIS releases video purportedly showing killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya". 20 April 2015.
  10. Westall, Sylvia. "Islamic State shoots and beheads 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya:..."
  11. "ISIS Video Appears to Show Executions of Ethiopian Christians in Libya".
  12. "ISIL claims massacre of Ethiopian Christians in Libya". Aljazeera.com.
  13. "ISIS behead and shoot 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya". Mail Online.
  14. McLaughlin, Eliott C. "ISIS executes more Christians in Libya, video shows". CNN.
  15. Ahram Online: "Video shows beheading of Copts at IS hands; Egypt declares week of mourning" 15 Feb 2015
  16. Raman Media network: "ISIS Video Shows Mass Beheading of Christian Hostages" by Rakash Raman February 16, 2015
  17. "اليزل: الجهات الأمنية كشفت شخصية 'القعقاع بن عمرو' قائد مذبحة المصريين". Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  18. Mahmoud Mostafa (February 14, 2015). "Libyan parliament confirms death of 21 kidnapped Coptic Egyptians". Daily News Egypt. Archived from the original on February 15, 2015. Retrieved 16 Feb 2015.
  19. "ISIS' Does ISIS really have SEVEN-FOOT tall executioners?".
  20. "ليبيا.. اعترافات مثيرة للشاهد على ذبح الأقباط". www.alarabiya.net (in Arabic). Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  21. ""البنيان المرصوص" تكشف التفاصيل الكاملة لذبح الأقباط المصريين في ليبيا". 2017-10-07. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  22. "داعشى يعترف بالتفاصيل الكاملة لاغتيال المصريين فى سرت الليبية بعد القبض عليه.. الإرهابى أبو عامر الجزراوى قاد المجموعة المجرمة.. وعناصر من تونس وليبيا شاركت فى الجريمة النكراء.. والسلطات تستخرج رفات الضحايا - اليوم السابع". اليوم السابع (in Arabic). 2017-10-07. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  23. "بالصور.. التفاصيل الكاملة لقصة ذبح الأقباط المصريين في سرت الليبية". إرم نيوز (in Arabic). Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  24. "بعد العثور على رفات الضحايا.. تفاصيل ذبح المصريين بليبيا". البوابة نيوز. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  25. "Islamic State: Egyptian Christians held in Libya 'killed'". BBC. 15 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  26. "Egyptian Church confirms 21 killed in Libya after Islamic State issues video". Reuters. 15 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  27. "Мировые лидеры осудили расправу ИГ над египтянами" (in Russian). Rusnovosti.ru. 16 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  28. "President Mohamed Abdelaziz extends condolences to Egyptian counterpart". Sahara Press Service. 17 February 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-02-26. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  29. "Pope Francis: ISIS killing of Coptic Christians "barbaric"". CBS News. Associated Press. 16 February 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  30. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides financial aid for the families of the brutally killed Egyptian Christians". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary. 17 February 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  31. New York Times: "Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East? - ISIS and other extremist movements across the region are enslaving, killing and uprooting Christians, with no aid in sight" By ELIZA GRISWOLD JULY 22, 2015 | "Daniel Philpott, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, says, When ISIS is no longer said to have religious motivations nor the minorities it attacks to have religious identities, the Obama administration's caution about religion becomes excessive."
  32. "Egyptian air strikes target Isis weapons stockpiles in Libya". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 Feb 2015.
  33. "Civilians killed as Egypt launches air strikes in Libya". Al Jazeera. 16 February 2015.
  34. "Coptic Church Recognizes Martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians". 21 February 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  35. "Ghanaian beheaded in Libya?". www.ghanaweb.com. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  36. "Libya's Mystery Beach and the 21st Victim - TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime". www.talkleft.com. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  37. "February anniversary of the brutal murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya one year ago". DavidAlton.net. 2016-02-12. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  38. "Ghanaian Christian Among Those Beheaded By ISIS". Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  39. Online., Herald Malaysia. "The bodies of the Coptic Martyrs beheaded by Isis found in Libya". Herald Malaysia Online. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  40. "Ghanaian beheaded in Libya?". www.ghanaweb.com. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  41. "CRISTIANI COPTI DECAPITATI DALL'ISIS/ Sirte, rinvenuti 21 corpi in una fossa comune". Il Sussidiario.net. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  42. "21st Martyr". 22 February 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  43. "African Man Turns To Christ Moments Before Beheading – BosNewsLife – Christian News Agency". www.bosnewslife.com. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  44. "الأقباط متحدون -حزن بين الأقباط لعدم دفن الشهيد الافريقى بجوار شهداء المنيا بالعور".
  45. "ليبيا "تعثر على" رفات المصريين الأقباط ضحايا تنظيم الدولة". 7 October 2017 via www.bbc.com.
  46. "الأقباط متحدون -استخراج جثاميين شهداء ليبيا من مقبرتهم وبدء الاستعداد لوصولهم مصر".
  47. "شقيق أحد الشهداء الأقباط في ليبيا: "فرحتنا برجوع رفاتهم كأنهم أحياء"". 7 October 2017.
  48. "الأقباط متحدون -ننفرد بنشر أول صور لاستخراج رفاه شهداء العور بليبيا".
  49. http://www.wataninet.com/2017/11/أسر-شهداء-ليبيا-يجرون-تحاليل-dna-لمطابقت/
  50. "Coptic Orthodox to dedicate church to New Martyrs of Libya".
  51. https://dbonfrdgauzmg.cloudfront.net/news/details/1220701
  52. https://www.alarabiya.net/ar/arab-and-world/egypt/2018/05/14/مصر-تستعد-لاستقبال-ودفن-رفات-ضحايا-داعش-ليبيا.html
  53. "بالصور.. كنيسة العور بسمالوط تنتظر جثامين الأقباط الـ21".
  54. https://dbonfrdgauzmg.cloudfront.net/news/details/1204745
  55. "الكنيسة المصرية تستعد لاستقبال رفات 21 قبطيًا ذبحهم داعش في ليبيا".
  56. "مطرانية سمالوط: دفن رفات ضحايا "داعش ليبيا" في كنيسة "العور" - اخبار ليبيا الان". 9 October 2017.
  57. "الأقباط متحدون -عاجل : تعرف علي تفاصيل نقل رفات شهداء ليبيا ؟".
  58. https://arabic.rt.com/middle_east/943941-البابا-تواضروس-يصلي-على-رفات-الأقباط-المصريين-العائدة-من-ليبيا/
  59. Salem, Mostafa. "Tears and joy as Egyptian Christians killed in Libya laid to rest".
  60. "وزير الهجرة: استقبال رفات شهداء الأقباط واجب رسمي وإنساني".
  61. "الأقباط متحدون -البابا يتوجه للمطار بانتظار رفات شهداء مذبحة ليبيا".
  62. "بدء القداس الإلهى لشهداء ليبيا بكنيسة شهداء الإيمان والوطن بالمنيا - ONA - ONews Agency - وكالة أنباء أونا". onaeg.com.
  63. "الأقباط متحدون - الأنبا بفنوتيوس يترأس صلاة جناز شهداء ليبيا".
  64. "الأقباط متحدون -مطرانية سمالوط: مستعدون لاستقبال رفات شهداء ليبيا".
  65. "الأقباط متحدون - وسط إجراءات أمنية مشددة.. المئات يزورون كنيسة شهداء الإيمان بعد عودة رفاتهم".
  66. "أسر شهداء العور: عودة رفات أبنائنا أعادت إلينا الروح من جديد".
  67. https://www.youm7.com/story/2018/5/15/صور-توافد-أهالى-سمالوط-فى-المنيا-على-مزار-شهداء-الإيمان/3794666
  68. "من البداية للنهاية.. عودة شهداء ليبيا إلى المنيا (فيديو وصور)".
  69. "ماثيو " شهيد المسيح " قريبا فى مصر . - جريدة الأهرام الجديد الكندية".
  70. "February anniversary of the brutal murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya one year ago". 12 February 2016.
  71. http://www.youm7.com/story/2015/2/16/ننشر-أسماء-شهداء-مصر-الـ21-ضحية-إرهاب-داعش-فى-ليبيا/2068977
  72. "Lots of Coptic clergy were rubbing shoulders with members of the Bruderhof". The Tablet. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  73. The 21 - A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs. Plough Publishing. 2019.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.