TRIPOLI, Libya, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- The Islamic State's Libyan wing released video Sunday depicting the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians.
The men were workers who were kidnapped in the Islamic militant-controlled city of Sirte, Libya, at a fake checkpoint and in a housing complex during two separate incidents in December 2014 and in early January 2015.
The video, filmed in higher quality than previous videos from IS affiliate groups, shows the orange jumpsuit-clad men being led to a spot on the coast where militants behead them one by one. A masked executioner spoke in English of beheading people in Syria who "have been carrying the cross for a long time," and that "today, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending another message."
"Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for," he said, knife in hand.
IS forces have consolidated most of their gains in Syria and since last year in Iraq, where the militants blitzed across the country's north and west. Last November the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced new branches in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria and Libya, where IS-aligned militants seized the town of Derna on Libya's northeastern Mediterranean Coast.
Since then the group has claimed credit for the execution of two Tunisian journalists and an attack on a hotel in Tripoli that resulted in the deaths of at least five Libyans and five foreigners, including one American.
Since 2011 Libya has suffered instability following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, when rebel forces turned against each another, with one side forming an internationally-recognized government in Tobruk, to the northeast, and rival factions forming the General National Congress in Tripoli, to the west. Both sides agreed to a United Nations-backed ceasefire in January, but several militant groups not aligned with either side have not agreed to the arrangement.