21 Egyptian Christians executed in Islamic State video

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A video released by the Islamic State shows fighters from one of its so-called provinces in Libya beheading 21 Egyptian Copts. The mass murders were advertised by Islamic State’s media operatives over the past couple of days. And the latest edition of the organization’s English-language magazine Dabiq, which was released last week, implied that the men had been killed.

In a scene that is similar to past videos from Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State’s victims are ritualistically walked along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea before being forced to kneel with their captors standing behind them.

An English-speaking fighter then talks, saying that he and his fellow jihadists are sending a message from “the south of Rome,” thereby threatening Italy. In recent weeks, members of the Italian government have called for more aggressive international intervention in Libya.

The fighter then says that the Islamic State and its allies will continue to fight the “Crusaders” until Jesus comes again. This is a reference to the apocalyptic Islamic belief that Jesus will reappear at the end of days.

The Islamic State’s head executioner says that the West hid Osama bin Laden’s body in the sea, and so the jihadists will mix the West’s blood in the same sea.

After the men are beheaded, the English-speaking fighter raises his knife to the water and swears that the Islamic State will conquer Rome.

The fighter’s reference to Osama bin Laden stands in stark contrast to the Islamic State’s denunciation of Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden’s successor as al Qaeda chief, in the latest edition of Dabiq.

The Islamic State claimed in Dabiq that the kidnapping of the 21 Egyptian men came “almost five years after the blessed operation against the Baghdad church.” That attack was launched in late 2010 by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the predecessor to the current Islamic State. The ISI claimed at the time that the suicide assault, which left dozens of people dead, was revenge for the supposed mistreatment of women in Egypt.

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s propagandists repeated this claim in Dabiq. But the Islamic State added that al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn, referred to by his nom de guerre Azzam al Amriki, condemned the act “in some of his letters” to the group. The Islamic State accused Gadahn of acting “on his personal rancor towards the Islamic State as soon as he became a top leader of [al Qaeda] after the martyrdom of” Osama bin Laden. Gadahn’s critique of the Islamic State’s practices are well-known, and his role in al Qaeda’s senior ranks predates bin Laden’s death.

The authors of Dabiq also accused Zawahiri of defending the Copts. “I want to restate our position towards the Coptic Christians. We do not want to get into a war with them because we are busy in the battle against the greatest enemy of the Ummah [America] and because they are our partners in this nation, partners whom we wish to live with in peace and stability,” the Islamic State quoted Zawahiri as saying.

“So while the Islamic State targeted the Catholics in revenge for the sisters imprisoned by the Copts, Azzam al Amriki’s commander [Zawahiri] was wooing the war-waging Copts themselves with feeble words,” Baghdadi’s men claimed in Dabiq.

The Islamic State has accused al Qaeda of being soft on Iran, as well as the Shiites in Iraq and Yemen. In executing the 21 Egyptian Copts, Baghdadi’s organization extended this argument further, claiming that al Qaeda weakly opposes, or does not oppose at all, Egypt’s Christians.

Thus, the beheadings shown in the newly released video were intended to intimidate both Egypt and Italy. And the Islamic State hopes to portray al Qaeda’s leaders as being weak-minded in their pursuit of jihad.

Images from the Islamic State’s new video and the latest edition of Dabiq magazine

The lead executioner points his knife at the Mediterranean Sea, promising that the Islamic State will conquer Rome:

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In a scene reminiscent of the beheading videos to come out of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State’s victims are lined up in front of their murderers:

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The video includes the same scenes portrayed in the latest edition of Dabiq, the Islamic State’s English-language magazine:

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The latest edition of Dabiq, which was released last week, included this image from the mass slaying:

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Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • James says:

    I would be greatly concerned if I were involved with the security detachment at “the Church of Rome” (i.e., the Vatican). They will do to the Vatican what they did to the WTC in a heartbeat if given the chance.

    Yes folks, looks to me like the global holocaust has begun. There is no doubt in my mind that this will lead to a global Armageddon if they are allowed to get away with it. But you see, that’s all part of their grand fanatical plan.

  • Mark says:

    ISIS is winning the recruitment battle with AQ by using these very tactics. al Baghdadi knows the minds of the modern jihadist community better than Zawahiri. Zawahiri is stuck in the pre-fall of Saddam days with regard to recruiting and that will leave AQ playing second fiddle to ISIS.
    But ISIS must be able to prove it can reach out and attack the USA to really blow the lid off the jihadi movement. I don’t fear for the Vatican as much as I fear for the US.

  • charlie bates says:

    Don’t be too worried. The Pope still has his Swiss Guard, which probably constitutes the largest armed force in Italy. Also, could this be why His Holiness never seems to stay home? He too has a moral obligation to confront an evil bent on destroying nearly all of human society. On the positive side, the arguments about gay marriage will undoubtedly recede into nothingness. Thank you LWJ for your even handed and thorough coverage of the scourge of this and following ge3nerations.

  • Stu says:

    Horrors followed by more horrors. As incredible as this genocide is, even more astounding is the response of our leaders and academics, debating about job opportunities, poverty, and the social causes of this evil. I have an admittedly foul intuition that our power elite are just waiting for a major attack. What else can explain the complacency, the weakness. Are we being conditioned to accept our fate as are the unfortunate victims of this butchery?

  • Philip says:

    Should the Vatican be attacked, what military defends the pope?
    The Swiss Guard…?


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