Egyptian warplanes bombed sites in Libya early on Monday in retaliation to the release of a video depicting the apparent mass beheading of 21 Egyptian hostages by Isis militants.
Libya’s air force commander, Saqr al-Joroushi, told Egyptian state TV the air strikes were coordinated with the Libyan side and had killed about 50 militants.
The air strikes targeted training locations and weapons stockpiles belonging to Isis in Libya, Egypt’s military said, and were carried out “in response to criminal acts of terrorist elements and organisations inside and outside the country”. All of the warplanes returned safely to base, according to the military.
A Libyan security official told Associated Press that the Egyptian warplanes struck four Isis positions in the eastern city of Derna, an extremist stronghold that was taken over by an Isis affiliate last year.
According to a report on AP, however, civilians, including three children and two women, were killed in the strikes.
A pro-jihadi Facebook page published photos showing a plume of smoke and damaged buildings in Derna, which it claimed were the result of the air strikes. The page, which could not be independently verified, said people had been killed in the strikes.
The video released on Sunday claims to show the killing of 21 Coptic Egyptian hostages on a beach in Libya. The online clip is shot in a similar style to previous videos published by Isis militants in the group’s core in Iraq and Syria. The self-proclaimed Islamic State seized vast chunks of territory in those two countries.
The US said the video showed the “wanton killing of innocents” and the UK foreign minister condemned the “barbaric” act.
At least 21 Egyptians were kidnapped in two separate incidents in the city of Sirte, Libya, in December and January. Relatives of the hostages had previously identified the captured men in media released by Isis, including an online magazine published days ago. The video depicts several men in orange jumpsuits being led along a beach, each accompanied by a masked militant. The men are made to kneel and one militant, dressed differently from the others, addresses the camera in American-accented English.
“All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes, especially if you are fighting us all together. Therefore we will fight you all together,” he says. “The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”
The men are then made to lie face down and are simultaneously beheaded. The militant speaker then points northward and says: “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.”
François Hollande, the French president, and Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, his Egyptian counterpart, called on Monday for the UN security council to meet over Libya and to take new measures. The two had discussed the situation over telephone, Hollande’s office said.