Libya repatriates bodies of Egyptian Copts killed by IS in 2015

Misrata (Libya) (AFP) –


Libya on Monday repatriated the remains of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians executed by the Islamic State group in 2015 near the city of Sirte, the jihadists' former bastion in the country, an AFP photographer said.

The coffins were loaded at Misrata airport onto a Libyan Afriqiyah Airways cargo plane bound for Cairo.

The bodies of the 20 Egyptian men and one dark-skinned man whom a medical examiner believes to be from sub-Saharan Africa were found in October near Sirte.

The doctor, Othman Al-Zentani, said identifying the bodies 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 victims were vital to the identification process, Al-Zentani said.

On February 15, 2015, IS broadcast a video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians abducted in January that year in western Libya.

After the executions, tens of thousands of Egyptians working in Libya's construction, service, agriculture and handicraft sectors fled the country.

Libya has been gripped by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with rival administrations and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

A UN-backed unity government based in the capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority outside the west, and military strongman Khalifa Haftar controls much of the east.

IS jihadists remain active in central and southern Libya despite being forced out of their northern bastion Sirte, Kadhafi's hometown, December 2016.