A message signed with blood: ISIS releases execution video of Egyptian Christians

ISIS Egyptian Christians by Haley Jordan

“Every life… look for humanity. Look for God’s creation.” Bishop Angaelos from the Coptic Orthodox Church in London speaks on the mass execution of the Egyptian Christians by the Islamic State.

February 25, 2015 / Volume XXXVII / Issue 2

A newly formed Libyan army of the Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of at least a dozen Coptic Christians on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, possibly in retaliation for Osama bin Laden’s body being allegedly dropped into the Arabian Sea in 2011.

Officials of Libya’s internationally recognized government recently went to Washington seeking assistance to stop the expansion of the Islamic State’s influence and control. Even some opponents of Libya’s official government have begun speaking about the need to stop the spread of ISIS.

Militants of the Tripolitania Province of ISIS announced in January that they had taken hostage 20 Egyptian Christians, or Copts. Coptic refers to the native Christian church in Egypt that uses the Coptic language in its liturgy. It is unclear whether all hostages were killed, but it is known that the laborers from the city of Sirte were taken in December and January.

The video depicts masked militants shrouded in black leading the bound hostages wearing orange jumpsuits toward the camera along the edge of a rocky beach, said to be in western Libya. Spanning five minutes, it is polished and edited, and bears the name Al Hayat, the logo of ISIS’ media arm, making it clear the video is not like previous cellphone clips by Libyan militants.

The apparent leader spoke in fluent English with an American accent, his words also written in Arabic subtitles. The title reads “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross.”

“Oh, people, recently you have seen us on the hills of as-Sham and Dabiq’s plain, chopping off the heads that have been carrying the cross for a long time,” the lead executioner said. “Today, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending another message… The sea you’ve hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”

The man adds that the killings are also in light of a dispute in Egypt five years ago over a Coptic Christian woman, Camilia Shehata, supposedly having been kidnapped by her husband and members of the church after trying to convert to Islam.

The hostages are then filmed being placed facedown on the sand, some appearing to pray quietly. They are simultaneously beheaded and the video ends with a shot of the Mediterranean Sea stained red.

Following the confirmation of the identities of the martyrs, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt declared seven days of mourning and a defense council meeting to decide the “necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings.”

Although the massacre was conducted in the same style of previous execution videos released by ISIS, it is unique and troublesome in that it was shot outside of ISIS’ core territory in Syria and Iraq, adding to the already present fears that the group is farther reaching than the confirmed areas. Three groups of Libyan fighters are known to have already pledged loyalty to the Islamic State, spanning throughout the country’s three major regions: Barqa, Fezzan and Tripolitania.

“Libya is a prime place for something like this to develop because the state is broken down,” Professor of Political Science Barbara Hicks commented. “The government doesn’t have control of the country, it doesn’t have control of the borders … What you would really want to do to combat ISIS is to have functional governments that address the issues that are of concern to recruits, most of the people requited for terrorist organizations … a lot of the time are the youth who don’t have prospects, who look at stagnant economies, corrupt and brutal regimes, and then look for alternative sources of political inspiration and mobilization. On the long term level you need to change how governments govern, and that doesn’t solve an immediate crisis.”

The killings in conjunction with the said plans to “conquer Rome,” show the possibility of a subsidiary group of ISIS existing less than 500 miles from the Southern tip of Italy. Along with these concerning developments, there is much controversy over the implications of religion-based targeting.

“This is a genocidal movement,” Charles Krauthammer of Fox News said.

“That’s what we’re up against and we have an administration that will not even admit that there’s a religious basis underlying what’s going on,” Krauthammer stated. Krauthammer and others have been criticizing the White House for referring the hostages “Egyptian Citizens” instead of Coptic Christians. Regardless, there is reason for the president to resist calling the killings Islamic supremacy, in that it could contribute to anti-Western ideology.

“I totally understand the reason the president isn’t flat out naming Islam,” commented first-year Mason Smith. “In ISIS’ areas of control one of their propaganda methods is they say that the West is waging a war on Islam and saying ‘you should join ISIS because this war on Islam is going on,’ and so that’s the reason he’s not flat out saying it is an Islamic thing.” Smith noted that ISIS is a radical sect and does not represent Islam as a whole, adding that the Islamic State’s victims span many other groups and religions.

“And as a Christian myself, martyrdom in Christianity has had a long history, Jesus Christ was the first martyr, and I pray for the Christians and all the people who are coming under attack by ISIS,” Smith said.

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