ISIS has reportedly beheaded 21 captured Egyptian Christians, releasing a video showing the mass beheading. Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Beheadings Took Place in Libya
The 21 Christians, who are Egyptians by birth, were captured in the Libyan town of Sirte by ISIS. The victims, all men, are shown wearing orange jumpsuits being forced to walk on a beach, then kneel, where they are ultimately killed.
The video was released on a Twitter feed known to be used by Islamist militants. Egypt has warned its residents not to travel to Lybia.
The Libyan Parliament yesterday confirmed the deaths of the 21 men, all who entered Libya as guest workers. The video was released late Sunday.
2. ISIS Specifically Targeted ‘Followers of the Cross’
According to al-Jazeera, members of the group perpetrating the mass beheading, are taking revenge for “Muslim women persecuted by Coptic crusaders in Egypt,” perhaps a reference to Camilla Shehata and Wafaa Constantine, two Egyptian Coptic women who were reportedly imprisoned for attempting to convert to Islam.
In the video, a voice, speaking in a North American English accent, says:
“All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes, especially if you are fighting us all together. Therefore we will fight you all together. The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama Bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”
There are an estimated 7,200,000 Coptic Christians living among 82.06 million majority Muslim Egyptians. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has reportedly called for an urgent meeting with top Egyptian national security officials.
Sisi, in a televised address, said he will be sending a foreign minister to New York, and is considering an aggressive response:
“It’s time for holistic not selective approach against terrorism.”
Earlier this month, Muath al-Kasasbeh a Jordanian pilot captured by ISIS, was shown burned alive while locked in a cage. That incident was also released on video, as was the decapitation of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto three days earlier.
The response was a massive Jordanian armed effort against ISIS and the execution of would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi, who was being held by the Jordanian government in the hopes of a prisoner swap.
3. The Beheadings Follow Two Attacks in Denmark This Weekend
Two people were killed this weekend in the Danish city of Copenhagen, when a gunman opened fire at a cafe that was hosting a controversial cartoonist in a discussion on free speech and blasphemy.
About 10 hours later, police say the same suspect, Omar El-Hussein, killed a security guard at a Bat Mitzvah outside a Copenhagen synagogue. No organizations have accepted responsibility for those attacks and police say El-Hussein may have been inspired by the January attacks on the Paris Charlie Hebdo headquarters and a Jewish supermarket.
4. ISIS Has Said it Will Behead People for Smoking
A severed head with a cigarette in its mouth was found last month in the ISIS-held Syrian city of Al-Mayadeen, as was reported by the Los Angeles Times. On the corpse nearby, “This is not permissible, Sheikh,” had been written in Arabic.
Smoking is permissible in Islam — alcohol is not — though ISIS’ strict interpretation of Sharia law has classified smoking as “slow suicide,” and therefore not acceptable.
As the “ISIS Preaching Office” said in a statement last year:
“Every smoker should be aware that with every cigarette he smokes in a state of trance and vanity is disobeying god. Three days following the issuance of the statement, selling tobacco and shisha will be strictly prohibited and those who insist on selling them will bring injustice upon themselves and upon other people. All tobacco quantities will be burned and the seller will be punished according to Sharia.”
5. Obama Presented an Authorization of Military Force Against ISIS to Congress Last Week
U.S. President Barack Obama handed Congress a draft authorization for the use of military force last week, that would allow armed forces to be used in combat against the Islamic State.
Congress has not yet voted on the use of military force against ISIS, and several democrats have criticized the president’s proposal, suggesting it utilized tools that proved ineffective against the Taliban and in Iraq during previous administrations.
As the resolution reads:
“ISIL has committed despicable acts of violence and mass executions against Muslims, regardless of sect, who do not subscribe to ISIL’s depraved, violent, and oppressive ideology.”