Egypt presses for decisive international action against terrorist organisations (photos: Reuters)
The broadcast of a video of the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians at the hands of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Libya prompted condemnation domestically, regionally and on an international level.“We have seen denunciations from across the world,” said a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity. “Now we must wait and see how these reactions — on the domestic and external level — are translated into action to combat the spread of IS.”
Hours after the video was aired President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi met with the National Defence Council. The meeting approved air strikes against IS targets in Libya, including training camps and arms depots. The ensuing strikes were conducted in coordination with the Libyan Army, according to Libya’s Air Force Chief of Staff Saqr Al-Geroushi.
In an address to the nation Al-Sisi announced plans were in the pipeline to evacuate expats from Libya.
Foreign Minister Spokesman Badr Abdel-Ati said Egyptians residing in secure areas should stay where they are or else move in small groups to the nearest airport or, if they are close, to the border. “While borders are closed to Egyptians seeking to enter Libya, borders and operating airports are open to Egyptians who want to leave,” he said.
EgyptAir is ready to execute evacuation plans as soon as orders are received, says Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamel. An evacuation plan has been formulated. Like the last evacuation of Egyptian nationals in July and August 2014, Tunisian airports will be used.
But the diplomat warns that “evacuating all — or even most of — the Egyptians living in Libya will be difficult.”
“Those who live in the south, or in other areas distant from operating airports and borders, will have to pass through areas under the control of radical groups.” The dangers they already face, he says, are now compounded by the threat of reprisals following the air strikes.
On Monday, Fajr Libya, the armed group that controls Tripoli, called on Egyptian workers to leave the Libyan territory within 48 hours for their own safety.
On Monday the government announced that the families of the 21 victims would each receive compensation of LE100,000.
Al-Sisi visited Coptic Pope Tawadros II to offer his condolences on Monday. On the same day Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim flew to Minya to meet with the families of the victims.
In a statement issued on Monday Al-Azhar described the beheadings as a barbaric act that contravenes all religious norms, and dispatched a delegation of senior clerics to the Minya village from which many of the victims came to offer condolences to their families.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri was dispatched to New York where he met with the UN Secretary General and members of the Security Council to demand the international community take decisive action against terrorist organisations that pose a threat to international peace and stability.
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling on the international coalition against IS, of which Egypt is a member, to furnish Egypt with the political support needed to take on IS and other terrorist organisations operating in Libya.
The threat IS poses to the Arab world was discussed at yesterday’s Arab League meeting in Cairo. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Arabi also visited the Coptic Cathedral to offer condolences to Pope Tawadros.
In a telephone conversation with Mehleb, Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni underlined that his government stood shoulder to shoulder with Egypt in the face of terrorism. Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, who is leading operations against Islamist militants in Libya, said on Sunday that he welcomed any Egyptian military intervention that weakened such groups.
King Abdullah of Jordan called Al-Sisi to offer his condolences. Earlier this month, IS broadcast a video showing a Jordanian pilot it had captured being burned alive.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Gouda called Shoukri to offer his condolences and stress Jordan’s commitment to working with Egypt to uproot terrorism. Jordan is currently a member of the UN Security Council.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered condolences to Al-Sisi and Pope Tawadros II and declared three days of national mourning.
“At such difficult moments we can do nothing but support and be in solidarity with President Al-Sisi and the Egyptians,” Abbas said.
Hamas and other Palestinians factions also denounced the beheadings.
Sudan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Youssef Al-Kordofani offered condolences to the bereaved families and said Khartoum stood solidly with Cairo against “heinous and brutal crimes that contradict the rules and teachings of the Islam”.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan issued a statement describing the beheadings as an ugly crime.
“The United Arab Emirates will devote resources to support the efforts of Egypt to eradicate terrorism and violence directed against its citizens, and reaffirms its total support for Egypt,” he said.
In August Egypt and the UAE denied media reports that they had undertaken a joint operation to launch air strikes against militant-controlled areas of Tripoli.
Following a meeting headed by King Salman, Saudi Arabia’s cabinet condemned the beheadings.
Kuwait described the murders as a barbaric crime that contradicts all human values. The Emir of Kuwait sent a telegram to Al-Sisi underlining his country’s rejection of terrorism and vowing Kuwaiti support for international action to eradicate terrorist groups.
Bahrain’s King Hamad denounced the “heinous crimes of the terrorist” IS group which “contradict all religious and human values”.He pledged support for “all measures Egypt takes” and said Bahrain is committed to “participating with the international community in uprooting terrorism”.Qatar condemned the beheadings as “an unacceptable crime”.
The UN Security Council condemned the killings and offered its condolences to the families of the victims and to Egypt’s government and people.
In a statement issued Sunday evening the Security Council said it was committed to fighting terrorist crimes that present a threat to international peace and security in accordance with the UN Charter.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of finding a political solution to the Libyan crisis.
US Secretary of State John Kerry offered his condolences on Sunday night as Egyptian leaders were still considering their response to the killings.
A statement from the White House condemned the “heinous act” and called for support of United Nations’ efforts to resolve the conflict in Libya.
“This wanton killing of innocents is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by IS terrorists against the people of the region, including the murders of dozens of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai, which only further galvanises the international community to unite against ISIL,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the “barbaric” IS beheadings in Libya.
Libya must not become “a safe haven for terrorists” after the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians in the country, he said.
French President Francois Hollande described the killing as “savage.” He expressed concern over the extension of IS operations in Libya and reiterated the determination of France and its allies to fight against the group.
Moscow declared its complete backing to Egypt in its war against terrorism. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Shoukri to offer his condolences and his country’s full support.
On Saturday Ahmed Nassar, the head of the Fishermen’s Syndicate in Kafr Al-Sheikh, told the press that 21 fishermen had been abducted in Misrata by Libyan militiamen. Efforts to release the captives are ongoing.