FEBRUARY 15, 2015: 21 Coptic Orthodox martyrs are beheaded by ISIS in Libya

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The terrorist organisation Islamic State (ISIS) beheaded 20 Egyptian Coptic Christian construction workers and one Ghanaian that they had kidnapped in the Libyan city of Sirte on February 15, 2015.

The men were kidnapped in Sirte in two separate attacks on 27 December 2014 and in January 2015.

On 15 February 2015, a five-minute video titled “People of the Cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church” was published, showing the beheading of the Christians on a beach along the southern Mediterranean coast.

In the video, the leader was dressed in camouflage, the other terrorists were dressed in black, and the victims were all dressed in orange jumpsuits, as in many previous ISIS videos.

Remains of beheaded Copts to return to Egypt soon: Libya - EgyptToday

The leader declared in North-American English:

“Oh people, recently you’ve seen us on the hills of Al-Sham (Greater Syria) and on Dabiq’s Plain, chopping off the heads that had been carrying the cross delusion for a long time, filled with spite against Islam and Muslims, and today we… are sending another message.

“Oh crusaders, safety for you will be only wishes especially when you’re fighting us all together, therefore we will fight you all together until the war lays down its burdens and Jesus peace be upon him will descend, breaking the cross, killing the swine.

“The sea you’ve hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”

After beheading the hostages, a message appears on the screen: “The filthy blood is just some of what awaits you, in revenge for Camelia and her sisters.”

This was referencing Camelia Shehata, a Coptic Egyptian woman and wife of a Coptic priest who Islamists believe had converted to Islam and was detained by the Coptic Church because of it – this was despite the fact that she denied the claim.

Finally the speaker says: “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission,” pointing his knife toward the sea.

The leader of the squad performing the killings was identified as a Libyan expatriate who goes by the nom de guerre Al Qaqa’a Ben Omro.

Later, when one of the perpetrators of the operation was arrested, he admitted in the investigation that the slaughter had taken place at the beach opposite Al Mahary Hotel in Sirte.

On 21 February 2015, a week after their death the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria canonised the 21 Coptic Martyrs as saints.

Coptic Martyrs 'Saints of All Christians' - Pope Francis - Mill Hill Missionaries

The commemoration falls on the feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple which is 8th Amshir of the Coptic calendar.

The most interesting part of this modern martyrdom story is that of the 21st victim, named Matthew Ayariga.

Local media reported that when questioned by the ISIS terrorists, he said “I am a Christian and I am like them”.

When the remains of the 21 bodies were found, the bodies of the 20 Egyptians were returned home.

The body of Ayariga was received in Egypt by the new church in Al Our, the Church of the Martyrs of Faith and Homeland, on on September 29, 2020.

The Church was built in honour of the 21 martyrs and the family members of the Egyptians, reported Watani, “expressed their joy at the return of the remains of the martyr [Matthew Ayariga]”, saying “Our joy is complete.”

Majid Shehata, a daughter of one of the martyrs, said:

“It was a surprise to all of us that we see the remains of the martyr Matthew inside the Church of the Martyrs, and this is a long-awaited news and all the families are in great joy and we thank God for having responded to us in the return of the martyr.”

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