Last updated: 20 March, 2015

Over 45,000 Egyptians flee Libya after IS beheadings

More than 45,000 Egyptians have fled Libya since jihadists published a video last month showing the beheading of Coptic Christians, most of them Egyptian, an official and state media said Friday.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians work in the restive country to the west and send money home to support their families, but their exact number is uncertain because many enter illegally.

Egyptian Copts have been increasingly targeted by Islamist militants, who beheaded 21 hostages, most of them Egyptian, prompting Cairo to carry out air strikes on a jihadist stronghold in Libya.

By Friday, 11,500 Egyptians had flown home via Tunisia, Libya’s western neighbour, since the beheadings were announced, said civil aviation ministry spokesman Mohamed Rahma.

Another nearly 34,000 Egyptians have crossed into Egypt from Libya by land in the same period, state media reported.

The Islamic State group’s affiliate in Libya claimed responsibility for the beheadings, releasing the video on February 15.

The militants took a foothold in the country amid a conflict between rival governments and their supporters.