US calls Islamic State killings of Egyptians in Libya 'despicable'

Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State (IS) kneel in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli, in this still image from an undated video made available on social media on Feb 15, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State (IS) kneel in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli, in this still image from an undated video made available on social media on Feb 15, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

RANCHO MIRAGE, California (Reuters/AFP) - The White House on Sunday condemned the "despicable and cowardly murder" of 21 Egyptians in Libya by militants affiliated with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and urged a political solution to the conflict in the country.

The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, using another acronym for ISIS.“ISIL’s barbarity knows no bounds. It is unconstrained by faith, sect, or ethnicity,” he added, saying the latest bloodshed “only further galvanises the international community to unite against ISIL”.

"This wanton killing of innocents is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated 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," said Mr Earnest. 

"This heinous act once again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya, the continuation of which only benefits terrorist groups, including ISIL." 

ISIS in Libya released a video purportedly showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, prompting Egypt’s president to threaten a “suitable” punishment for the killings.The footage shows the handcuffed hostages wearing orange jumpsuits being beheaded by their black-suited captors on a beach the group said was in the Libyan province of Tripoli. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said his country reserved the right to “punish these murderers” as he called a meeting of security chiefs and declared seven days of mourning after the video was distributed on social media.

US Secretary of State John Kerry “strongly condemned the despicable act of terror” and offered his condolences in a call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, agreeing to keep close touch while Egypt decides a course of action, a senior State Department official said.