In Brief

Egypt 'avenges' Coptic Christians killed by Islamic State

Islamic State targets in Libya hit by Egyptian forces after militants behead 21 Christians in gruesome video

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi making a televised statement

Egyptian war planes have reportedly struck Islamic State targets in Libya following last night's release of a video showing militants beheading 21 Coptic Christians.

The five-minute video, made in a similar style to that of previous IS prisoner murders, showed several men in orange jumpsuits made to lie face down before they were simultaneously beheaded.

The victims are believed to have been kidnapped in two separate incidents in the city of Sirte, Libya, in December and January. Their families had blamed Egyptian authorities for an inadequate response to the kidnapping.

Marking the first public acknowledgment of its military action in neighbouring Libya, a spokesman for Egypt's Armed Forces General Command this morning announced that war planes had targeted IS weapons caches and training camps before returning safely. He said the strikes were "to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers".

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi had earlier declared a seven-day mourning period for the Christian victims and vowed revenge for the mass killing, warning that Cairo would choose the "necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings".

The Coptic Orthodox church, whose followers make up between 8 and 11 per cent of Egypt's 80 million citizens, said it had confidence that Egypt "won't rest without retribution for the evil criminals".

Libya's air force also launched strikes in the eastern city of Darna, overrun by an IS affiliate last year.

Ian Black, The Guardian's Middle East editor, said the beheading video appeared to be a deliberate effort by IS to "advertise its reach". The group has already declared three parts of Libya to be under its control and last month mounted a suicide bomb attack on a hotel in Tripoli.

"The growth of Isis in Libya," says Black, "is a symptom of the country’s violence, lawlessness and misrule four years after the 17 February revolution."

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