France urges peace deal to restore security in Libya

Friday 17/04/2015
Latest atrocity underscores urgent need for political resolution

PARIS - French President Francois Hollande on Monday condemned the killing of at least 28 Ethiopian Christians in Libya, urging a peace deal to restore order in the conflict-ridden nation.

Hollande said in a statement he was outraged at the "abominable" murder shown in a video by the Islamic State (IS) group released Sunday.

"A national peace deal remains both necessary and urgent to restore order and security in Libya," read the statement.

Ethiopia will hold three days of national mourning, the government said Monday.

The mourning period will begin Tuesday after its official launch by parliament, Communications Minster Redwan Hussein said.

State television said flags would fly at half mast.

The 29-minute video issued by the IS group purports to show militants holding two groups of captives, described in text captions as "followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church".

A masked fighter in black brandishing a pistol makes a statement threatening Christians if they do not convert to Islam.

The video then switches between footage of one group of about 12 men being beheaded by masked militants on a beach and another group of at least 16 being shot in the head in a desert area.

Addis Ababa has condemned the killings, and said its embassy in Egypt was trying to confirm exactly how many died and their identities.

"Many of them were Ethiopians, even though we don't know the exact number yet," Redwan said, adding that it remained unclear if it would be possible to recover the bodies.

African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma condemned the "barbaric and cowardly act".

She said the 54-member bloc -- which is headquartered in Addis Ababa -- would boost efforts "towards the restoration of effective state institutions and security in Libya."

The United States has called the killings "brutal mass murder", while the European Union said it was a "criminal" effort to create religious divisions.

Almost two-thirds of Ethiopians are Christians, the majority of those Orthodox Copts -- who say they have been in the Horn of Africa nation since the first century AD -- as well as large numbers of Protestants.

Islam also has an ancient history in Ethiopia, brought to the country by some of the earliest followers of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), who were sheltered there by the Christian king.

Awash with weapons since its 2011 revolt and torn between rival governments and parliaments, Libya is on the edge of all-out civil war as armed groups do battle for its cities and oil wealth.

The Islamic State, which has seized chunks of Syria and Iraq, has won the support of jihadist groups across Middle East and north Africa. Several Libyan jihadist groups have pledged allegiance to the militants.