Twenty-one Egyptian Christians kidnapped by Isis in Libya around New Year's are feared dead, after Twitter accounts linked to the Libyan branch of the so-called "Islamic State" announced they had been slaughtered.
There is no official confirmation yet but Egyptian media believe the news to be reliable and two pictures released by the same Twitter sources show what they describe as "the Islamic State carrying out the execution of Coptic prisoners in the province of Tripoli."
In the first picture five men wearing the notorious orange jumpsuit are kneeling while hooded hangmen armed with knives stand behind them. The caption, written in English, describes them as "the humiliated followers of the Coptic church."
In another picture more men wearing the orange jumpsuit appear in a line with their executioners under a message in English that reads "revenge for the Muslim women persecuted by Coptic crusaders in Egypt."
These pictures along with others were published by Dabiq, Isis' online magazine in English, together with an announcement of the kidnapping but not of the execution.
The abduction, already described by several sources as having taken place around New Year's, was claimed on January 12 and there remains a faint hope that the news of the execution on Twitter is a fake stretching of the images released. The Egyptian government which set up a special crisis unit to follow the kidnapping did not confirm the death of the Copts.
Intense contacts "have been established with Libyan counterparts to clarify the situation and assess the truthfulness" of the information provided reads a statement by the presidency.
In the aftermath of the fall of Muammar Gheddafi, Libya has plunged into chaos with two governments claiming power with two armies and distinct militias. Within this framework the Islamic State managed to create a caliphate in the city of Derna and to extend its realm of action more or less as far as Tripoli and Bengasi.
The Christian minority in Libya is increasingly at risk especially in the east of Libya where radical Islamists have grown more powerful and acts of intimidation and violence against Copts have risen.
The kidnapped men, originally from the region of Minya in central Egypt, were abducted in the city of Sirte, Egyptian newspaper Al Shourouk reported.(ANSAmed).