Saturday 23 September 2017

Egypt launches second wave of air strikes against IS following mass beheading

Hayden Smith and James Tapsfield

Egyptian warplanes have staged a second wave of air strikes against the Islamic State group in neighbouring Libya.

Officials said the aircraft struck in Darna, an extremist stronghold in eastern Libya, which had been the focus of the first wave of air strikes.

In Libya, a security official said Darna and its suburbs were rocked by the sound of massive explosions around lunchtime.

Earlier, Fighter planes bombed weapons caches and training camps in dawn raids carried out to "avenge the bloodshed", military commanders in Cairo told state broadcasters.

The attacks came after Libyan jihadists loyal to IS - also known as Isis or Isil - posted a video of Coptic Christians from Egypt being massacred.

Dressed in orange overalls, the hostages are seen in the footage being forced to the ground before they are beheaded.The captives were seized in December and January from the eastern coastal town of Sirte, which is now largely held by Islamist fighters.

Militants in Libya claiming affiliation with the Islamic State group had been holding 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians hostage for weeks
Militants in Libya claiming affiliation with the Islamic State group had been holding 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians hostage for weeks
Coptic Christian men whose relatives were abducted by Islamic State militants in the central city of Sirte, Libya more than a month ago, protest at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Family relatives of abducted Coptic Christian Samuel Walham, one of 21 Coptic Egyptian men seized by Islamic State militants in the central city of Sirte, Libya, more than a month ago, weep outside their home in the village of el-Aour, near Minya, 220 kilometers (135 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Coptic Christian men whose relatives were abducted by Islamic State militants in the central city of Sirte, Libya more than a month ago, protest at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
A Coptic Christian woman prays for the release of 21 Coptic Egyptian men whose were abducted by Islamic State militants in the central city of Sirte, Libya more than a month ago, during a protest at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Libya's air force was also reported to have carried out strikes in the city of Darna, which was seized by an IS affiliate last year.

The developments have raised fears that IS has established a firm presence in a country less than 500 miles (800km) from the southern tip of Italy.

In the video, a militant suggests that the group now plans to "conquer Rome".

Italy has closed its embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, while reports today suggest that the European country is prepared to seek a United Nations mandate to dispatch troops to Libya.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond denounced the killing of the Egyptian hostages.

He said: "Such barbaric acts strengthen our determination to work with our partners to counter the expanding terrorist threat to Libya and the region.

"Acts of terrorism should not be allowed to undermine Libya's political transition.

"We remain fully supportive of the UN's efforts to build a national unity government for Libya and to bring a political solution to the ongoing security crisis.

"Those who support terrorists can have no part in this process."

Libya has been in turmoil since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, with two rival governments and a variety of militia groups battling for turf.

Press Association

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