Bodies of Egyptian Copts killed by IS arrive back home

Coffins containing the remains of the bodies of Egyptian Copts killed by Islamic State militants in Sirte are carried by the plane to be transferred to Egypt, in Misrata, Libya May 14, 2018. Photo: Reuters/Ismail Zitouny

CAIRO - The remains of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians executed by the Islamic State group in 2015 in Libya arrived home on Monday, an official at Cairo airport said.

Egypt's Coptic Church head Pope Tawadros II was at the airport to receive the remains, which were flown from Misrata on a Libyan Afriqiyah Airways cargo plane.

The bodies of the 20 Egyptian men and one dark-skinned man whom a medical examiner believes to be from sub-Saharan Africa were found in October near the Libyan city of Sirte.

The doctor, Othman al-Zentani, said identifying the bodies was "not an easy task" as they had decomposed and the heads had been separated from the torsos.

DNA samples sent by families of the victims were vital to the identification process, Zentani said.

READ: Libya to return bodies of 20 beheaded Egyptian Christians

On February 15, 2015, IS broadcast a video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians abducted in January that year in western Libya.

After the executions, tens of thousands of Egyptians working in Libya's construction, service, agriculture and handicraft sectors fled the country.

Libya has been gripped by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

A UN-backed unity government based in the capital, Tripoli, has struggled to assert its authority outside the west, and military strongman Khalifa Haftar controls much of the east.

IS jihadists remain active in central and southern Libya despite being forced out of their northern bastion of Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, December 2016.


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