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Egypt Launches Airstrikes Against Islamic State Targets in Retaliation for Beheadings

After 21 Christian Egyptians were apparently beheaded in a video released by the Islamic State on Sunday, Egypt today struck back with airstrikes on the group in Libya.

by Scott Mitchell
Feb 16 2015, 10:55am

Photo via Facebook

Egypt launched airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Libya on Monday morning, a day after the militant group released video purporting to show the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians.

Today's strikes were confirmed by Egypt's Armed Forces General Command, which said the goal was, "to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers."

"Let those far and near know that Egyptians have a shield that protects them," the statement continued.

The 21 people apparently executed in a video that was released by the Islamic State on Sunday were Egyptians who had been held as hostages, according to the state-run news agency MENA. A leader of the Coptic community confirmed their deaths to the network.

Islamic State threatens to 'conquer Rome' in gruesome video that shows 21 beheadings. Read more here.

In a televised address on Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had made plain that Egypt intended to retaliate.

"Egypt reserves the right to respond in a suitable way and time to punish these murderers," he said. "Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups carrying extremist ideology and sharing the same goals."

The Egyptian Armed Forces Command said they targeted "camps, places of gathering and training, and weapons depots" in their attacks, but the exact location of the strikes and the death tolls are yet to be confirmed.

Images quickly appeared online which purported to show the sites targeted in the morning raids.

It appeared that the strikes had concentrated on the eastern city of Derna, where locals told AFP at least seven strikes were carried out. 

A spokesman for Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said that Egyptian planes had taken part in coordinated airstrikes on Derna, according to the BBC.

Militias controlling Derna, a city of some 100,000 people, united and pledged allegiance to Islamic State in October 2014, making it the first place outside of Iraq and Syria to fall under the group's control.

Egypt's defense ministry released video of fighter jets leaving their base described as preparing to strike Islamic State targets in Libya.

Follow Scott Mitchell on Twitter: @s_mitchell

Image via Facebook