Wednesday 22 February 2017

Ethiopia says Christians killed in Libya were its citizens

Aaron Maasho

Published 20/04/2015 | 14:09

An Islamic State militant holds a gun while standing behind what are said to be Ethiopian Christians
An Islamic State militant holds a gun while standing behind what are said to be Ethiopian Christians
This undated image made from a video released by Islamic State militants

Ethiopia has confirmed that the 30 Christians shown being shot and beheaded in Libya by Islamic State were its citizens.

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"The Ethiopian government is deeply saddened by the barbarous act committed against our innocent nationals," the Office of Government Communications Affairs said in a statement.

Officials were working to identify the victims, it added.

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Ethiopia will observe three days of national mourning starting on Tuesday, with flags lowered to half-staff mast to mourn what it described as "atrocities committed against our nationals in Libya and South Africa".

Ethiopian nationals have also been caught up in a wave of anti-immigrant violence sweeping across South African townships.

The attack in Libya widens the circle of nations affected by ISIS's atrocities while showing its growth beyond a self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

The release of the 29-minute video comes a day after Afghanistan's president blamed the extremists for a suicide attack in his country that killed at least 35 people - and underscores the chaos gripping Libya after its 2011 civil war and the killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

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It also mirrored a film released in February showing militants beheading 21 captured Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach, which immediately drew Egyptian airstrikes on the group's suspected positions in Libya.

Ethiopia long has drawn the anger of Islamic extremists over its military's attacks on neighbouring Somalia, whose population is almost entirely Muslim. While the militant in the video at one point said "Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap," it did not specifically mention the Ethiopian government's actions.

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The video starts with what it called a history of Christian-Muslim relations, followed by scenes of militants destroying churches, graves and icons. A masked fighter brandishing a pistol delivers a long statement, saying Christians must convert to Islam or pay a special tax prescribed by the Koran.

Libya has become a hub for migrants across Africa hoping to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe for work and better lives.

Read More: Islamic State threatens to repeat 9/11 in warning to America

Ethiopia's options to retaliate remain slim, given its distance from Libya. However, Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia Mohammed Edrees said his country could partner with Addis Ababa to strike the militants.

"That could be an option," Mr Edrees said. "We will see and explore what is possible to deal with group."

Reuters

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