The Egyptian government launched a second wave of retaliatory airstrikes Monday against ISIS targets in Libya following the release of a chilling video over the weekend purporting to show members of the terrorist group beheading 21 Egyptian Christians who had traveled to Libya seeking work.
The attacks mark the first time since the 1990 Gulf War that Egypt has publicly acknowledged a foreign military intervention. The country’s Armed Forces General Command said it deployed fighter jets to target ISIS training sites and weapon depots in Derna to “avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers.”
The slaughter of the 21 Coptic Christians in Libya is being seen as a major escalation by the terror group in North Africa, which previously had not seen the same level of violent ISIS activity as in Iraq and Syria. A militant in the latest video even goes as far to say that the group plans to “conquer Rome.”
It was not clear how successful the airstrikes had been. Libya’s internationally-recognized government, which is allied with Egypt and controls the eastern part of the country, said 64 militants had been killed. That number has not been confirmed by NBC News.
According to NBC News, Libya Dawn – an alliance of Islamist groups that controls Tripoli – responded to the airstrikes by calling on Egyptian nationals to leave Libya within 48 hours for their own safety, saying they would not be able to protect them in the wake of the Egyptian military actions. Egyptian officials estimate there are hundreds of thousands of its citizens currently in Libya.
The United States condemned the mass execution, although senior Defense and military officials told NBC News the U.S. did not provide targeting information for the Egyptian counterattack, for which officials said Egypt had “ample intelligence” of their own. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Sunday that ISIS’s barbarity “knows no bounds.” Secretary of State John Kerry called Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to offer his condolences and the two leaders have agreed to communicate as Egypt considers its continuing response.
The massacre in Libya caps several weeks of brutality for those being held captive by ISIS, including the beheading last month of two Japanese hostages, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, and the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh. On Feb. 6, the family of American humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller, 26, confirmed that she had died in ISIS captivity.
The Obama administration is asking for congressional authorization for the use of military force against ISIS.