Remains of Coptic Christians martyred by ISIS in Libya return home
On 14 May the remains of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians executed by Islamic State in 2015 near the Libyan city of Sirte, the jihadists’ former bastion in the country, arrived at Cairo airport. They were flown from Misrata on a Libyan Afriqiyah Airways cargo plane. Pope Tawadros II, the head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, was at the airport to receive them.
IS had broadcast a video in February 2015 showing the beheading of 21 Christians – 20 Coptic Egyptians and an African man – who were abducted a month before in western Libya. 21 headless bodies were found last October near Sirte.
Othman al- Zentani, the doctor who examined the bodies, said identifying them 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 Egyptian victims were vital to the identification process. The bodies were identified as those of the 20 abducted Egyptian men and one dark-skinned man whom the medical examiner believes to be from sub-Saharan Africa.
Last year, Pope Tawadros II declared the martyrs to be saints and announced their inclusion in the Synaxarium of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Earlier this year, a new church in Egypt was dedicated to the martyrs, whose bodies will now be kept in a specially designed area on the ground floor of the church.