ISIS shows purported executions in Libya of Ethiopia Christians

TRIPOLI (AFP/REUTERS) - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group on Sunday released a video purportedly showing the executions of some 30 Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya.

The 29-minute video purports to show militants holding two groups of captives, described in a text on the screen as “followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church”.

A masked fighter in black brandishing a pistol makes a statement threatening Christians if they do not convert to Islam.

The video then switches between footage of one group of about 12 men being beheaded by masked militants on a beach and another group of at least 16 being shot in the head in a desert area.

It was not immediately clear who the captives were or exactly how many were killed.

Before the killings, the video shows purported footage of Christians in Syria explaining how they had been given the choice of converting to Islam or paying a special tax, and had decided to pay.  

The video bore the logo of ISIS’s media arm and was similar to footage released in the past, including of a group of 21 Coptic Christians, mainly Egyptians, beheaded on a Libyan beach in February.  

Several Libyan jihadist groups have pledged allegiance to IS, the extremist organisation that seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq last year and declared an Islamic “caliphate”.  

Ethiopia said on Sunday it had not been able to verify that about 30 people shown in a video being shot and beheaded by Islamic State in Libya were Ethiopian Christians, but said it condemned the “atrocious act.”

“We have seen the video but our embassy in Cairo has not been able to confirm that the victims are Ethiopian nationals,”government spokesman Redwan Hussein told Reuters. “Nonetheless, the Ethiopian government condemns the atrocious act.” He said Ethiopia, which does not have an embassy in Libya, would help repatriate Ethiopians if they wanted to leave Libya. 

ISIS has carried out widespread atrocities and won the support of jihadist groups across the region, including in chaos-hit Libya. The country has been wracked by unrest since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with two opposing governments and armed groups battling to control its cities and oil wealth.  

UN-backed efforts to form a national unity government have made little progress and officials have warned that Libya – awash with weapons after Kadhafi’s overthrow – threatens to become a haven for jihadists on Europe’s doorstep.

ISIS has persecuted minorities including Christians and its executions of the Egyptian Copts prompted retaliatory air strikes from Cairo.

Egypt called for an international intervention against the jihadists in Libya but Western diplomats expressed reservations, saying a political deal must be the priority.

A US-led coalition of Western and Arab nations is carrying out an air war against IS in Syria and in Iraq, where pro-government forces have managed in recent months to retake some territory seized by the group.  

The group’s attacks have raised fears for Christians across the Middle East and been condemned by religious leaders.  

The head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, was in Egypt on Sunday to offer his condolences over the beheadings of the Copts in Libya.  

He was to meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, and Coptic Pope Tawadros II.