Mass grave of 34 Ethiopian Christians executed by ISIS found in Libya

Islamic State militants lead what are said to be Ethiopian Christians along a beach in Wilayat Barqa, in this still image from an undated video made available on a social media website on April 19, 2015. The video purportedly made by Islamic State and posted on social media sites on Sunday appeared to show militants shooting and beheading about 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya. Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the video but the killings resemble past violence carried out by Islamic State, an ultra-hardline group which has expanded its reach from strongholds in Iraq and Syria to conflict-ridden Libya. Libyan officials were not immediately available for comment. Ethiopia said it had not been able to verify whether the people shown in the video were its citizens. | (Photo: Reuters/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)

Libyan authorities have announced that a mass grave containing the remains of 34 Christians murdered by the Islamic State in 2015 has been found.

The interior ministry’s Criminal Investigation Department revealed that the bodies of 34 Ethiopian Christians were found on what drone images show is a farm near the coastal city of Sirte, according to Reuters.

Sirte was controlled by the Islamic State’s Libyan offshoot in 2015 but the terror group was later pushed out of the city by United Nations-backed forces in 2016.

In April 2015, however, the Islamic State released a video showing two groups of Ethiopian Christians in Orange jumpsuits being killed on a Libyan beach. One group was shot to death while the others were beheaded.

The murdered Christians were in Libya looking for jobs as migrant workers.

In the 30-minute video, the Islamic State warned the “nation of the cross” that more killings were to come in revenge for the “shed [of] Muslim blood.”

The Libyan government said that the discovered bodies will be repatriated to Ethiopia after “domestic and international legal procedures are completed.”

A video released showing the killings of the Ethiopian Christians led to tens of thousands of Ethiopians attending a rally in the capital of Addis Ababa to condemn the Islamic State’s violence.

The mass murder of the Ethiopians came just about two months after the Islamic State beheaded 21 Coptic Christian migrant workers from Egypt on a Libyan beach. That mass killing was also broadcast in a propaganda video produced by the terrorist group’s media arm.

The mass grave containing the bodies of the 21 Coptic Christians was found in Sirte by Libya’s Interior Ministry in October 2017. According to the government, the bodies were found with their heads decapitated and hands bound behind the backs.  

The Islamic State, which was has held territory in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt, quickly became known worldwide through its appalling execution videos.

In 2014, the group released a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley and threatened to kill another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, if then President Barack Obama didn’t halt airstrikes against the Islamic State. Sotloff was beheaded in September 2014 and the Islamic State also released the video of his beheading.

Other execution videos released by the Islamic State include one in which a victim was run over with a military tank, and another where several victims are hogtied and slaughtered in a slaughterhouse.

Other videos showed victims being burned to death.

The Islamic State has largely been pushed out of its territories in Iraq and Syria. However, the Islamic State is still active in Libya.

The Islamic State took credit for a Christmas Day attack on a Libyan foreign ministry office in Tripoli that left three dead and 10 injured. The terrorist group also claimed responsibility for an attack on a Christmas market in Germany last month where one of its "soldiers" killed five people and injured 12 others. 

According to the Daily Mail, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Sayalah called on the international community to lift a U.N. arms embargo imposed since 2011.

“We need weapons to combat terrorism,” Sayalah said. “The Libyan people are fighting terrorism on behalf of the world.”

Libya is being run by the interim Government of National Accord, which was formed by a United Nations-led initiative signed in December 2015.

Unrest in Libya has caused the delay of a much anticipated presidential election that was supposed to take place in December.  

Former President Obama has said that his decision in 2011 to authorize a military intervention in Libya that led to the execution of Muammar al-Qaddafi and the destabilization of the country was his worst mistake as president.

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

or Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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