Many in Ethiopia are reeling from the news that several Ethiopians
were killed in Libya by the Islamic State group, which over the weekend
released a video purporting to show the killings.
which have shocked many in the predominantly Christian country, were
condemned by Pope Francis and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
victims were planning to go to Europe by boat from Libya but were
captured and then killed by the Islamic extremists, said grieving family
members and government officials. Ethiopia’s government on Monday
declared three days of mourning.
Pope Francis on Monday sent a
letter to the patriarch of Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Abuna
Matthias, expressing “distress and sadness” at the “further shocking
violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya.
The pope has been very vocal in condemning the persecution of
Christians across the globe in recent months, and stressed in the letter
to the Ethiopian orthodox patriarch that “it makes no difference
whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killings and “utterly
deplores the targeting of people on the basis of their religious
affiliation,” his spokesman said.
The UN Security Council
condemned “the heinous and cowardly apparent murder” of more than 30
Ethiopian Christians and stressed again that the Islamic State group
“must be defeated and that the intolerance, violence and hatred it
espouses must be stamped out”.
The council demanded the immediate
release of all hostages held by the extremist group and called for
those responsible for the “reprehensible acts of terrorism” to be
brought to justice.
Some people gathered Monday gathered in an
Addis Ababa slum to mourn two former residents whose faces were
recognized in the Islamic State video. The 29-minute video, released on
Sunday via social media accounts and websites used by the extremists,
shows many Ethiopian Christians held captive in Libya being shot or
beheaded by militants.
Eyasu Yikunoamlak and Balcha Belete left
Ethiopia two months ago with the aim of reaching Europe. They are
believed to have left Ethiopia through Sudan and later traveled to Libya
where they planned to take a boat to Europe but they were seized by
Islamic State militants, relatives told The Associated Press on Monday.
and friends of the two victims in Cherkos Village, a poor neighborhood
of the Ethiopian capital, said Eyasu and Balcha grew up together and
used to live in the same house.
Seyoum Yikunoamlak, the older
brother of Eyasu, said he first learned about the death of his younger
brother on Sunday evening while checking the news on Facebook.
was very worried how to tell our family but everyone is a Facebook user
these days so people in our village told our family that Eyasu was
among the group that are on the (Islamic State) video,” a tearful Seyoum
Family members stopped getting calls from Eyasu a month
ago and grew worried, but news of a violent death was never expected, he
“His dream was to go to Italy and then reach the UK and help himself and his family members,” he said.
Hussein, an Ethiopian government spokesman, said on Sunday he believed
the victims were Ethiopian migrants trying to reach Europe, an account
bolstered by local residents who said impoverished young men are tempted
to make the perilous journey to Europe.
“There is no job
opportunity here. I will try my luck too, but not through Libya,” said
Meshesa Mitiku, a longtime friend of the two victims. “I want to move
out. There is no chance to improve yourself here. This is the whole
Ethiopia’s three days of mourning start
Tuesday, when lawmakers will meet to discuss the killings and consider
the country’s possible response, the government said in a statement.
has angered Islamic extremists over its military’s attacks on
neighboring Somalia, whose population is almost entirely Muslim. A
militant in the video said “Muslim blood that was shed under the hands
of your religion is not cheap,” but the video did not specifically
mention the Ethiopian government’s actions.
The Islamic State
video showing the killing of the Ethiopians starts with what it called a
history of Christian-Muslim relations, followed by scenes of militants
destroying churches, graves and icons. A masked fighter brandishing a
pistol delivers a long statement, saying Christians must convert to
Islam or pay a special tax prescribed by the Quran.