ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – 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.
The killings, which have shocked many in the predominantly Christian country, were condemned by Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The 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 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.”
The U.N. Security Council condemned “the heinous and cowardly apparent murder” of more than 30 Ethiopian Christians.
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 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 were seized by Islamic State militants, relatives told the Associated Press on Monday.
Relatives 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.
Family members stopped getting calls from Eyasu a month ago and grew worried, but news of a violent death was never expected, he said.
“His dream was to go to Italy and then reach the U.K. and help himself and his family members,” he said.
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