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IS in Libya beheads 21 Egyptian Christians

A video released Sunday purportedly shows the beheading of Egyptian Coptic Christians the militants say they captured in Libya
An image taken from a video released by the jihadist media arm Al-Hayat Media Centre purportedly shows black-clad Islamic State fighters leading handcuffed hostages, said to be Egyptian Coptic Christians, before their alleged decapitation on a seashore in the Libyan capital of Tripoli (AFP/HO/AL-HAYAT MEDIA CENTRE)

CAIRO - The Islamic State group released a video on Sunday purportedly showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians the militants say they captured in Libya.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi immediately called an urgent meeting of the country's top security body and declared seven days of mourning.

"Egypt reserves the right to respond in a suitable way and time to punish these murderers," Sisi said in a televised speech.

The Coptic Church issued a statement confirming the execution of the 21 Egyptians, saying it was "confident" the killers would be brought to justice, while Al-Azhar, the prestigious Cairo-based seat of Islamic learning, denounced the "barbaric" killings.

"We have seen the painful video and confirm the execution of Egyptians kidnapped in Libya," church spokesman Bolis Halim told the official Middle East News Agency.

The footage released by IS online shows handcuffed hostages wearing orange jumpsuits being beheaded by their black-suited captors in a coastal area the group said was in the Libyan province of Tripoli.

In the latest issue of the IS online magazine Dabiq, the group said 21 Egyptian hostages were being held in Libya, and in Sunday's video, shot from several angles, the beheadings of at least 10 hostages were seen.

Egyptian state television also broadcast some of the footage from the IS video.

The security body that will meet in Cairo groups Sisi, his defence and interior ministers and top military figures.

Egypt last year denied reports of having carried out air strikes on Islamists in Libya.

"The Orthodox church... is confident its homeland would not rest until the evil perpetrators get their fair retribution for their wicked crime," the Coptic church said in a statement on its Facebook page.

'Great sorrow'

In a statement, Al-Azhar said it had heard the news of the beheadings "of a group of innocent Egyptians with great sorrow and grief.

"Al-Azhar stresses that such barbaric action has nothing to do with any religion or human values."

The latest IS video comes just days after the militants released footage showing the gruesome burning alive of a Jordanian pilot the group captured after his F-16 came down in Syria in December.

The highly choreographed video showing the killing of Muaz al-Kassasbeh triggered global outrage.

Sunday's video, entitled "A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross," has a scrolling caption in the first few seconds referring to the hostages as "People of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church."

One of the masked captors, wearing a military uniform and pointing a knife to the camera said in English: "Today we are in the south of Rome, in the land of Islam Libya... the sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden's body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood."

Al-Qaeda founder Bin Laden was shot and killed in a dramatic helicopter raid by US special forces in Pakistan in the early hours of May 2, 2011 and later buried at sea in an unidentified location.

After the beheadings shown on Sunday, a background voice on the video believed to be IS spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani says: "We swear to Allah we will take revenge, even if it takes a while."

In January, the IS branch in Libya claimed it had abducted 21 Christians.

Libya's army, which is backed by the Tobruk-based parliament, on Sunday condemned the execution of the Egyptians. The army said it had started shelling targets of the militant group in the western city of Sirte in response to the killing of the Egyptian nationals.

"We condemn the crime of the IS and deliver our condolences to the Egyptian people and leadership," spokesman of the army's chief of staff, Ahmed al-Mesmari, told The Anadolu Agency.

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