Bodies of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians murdered by ISIS to be returned to families

The bodies of 21 Coptic martyrs killed by ISIS on a beach in Libya will be returned to their families and given a proper burial after a mass grave was found near the northern town of Sirte.

Church of the Martyrs of Libya in Aour village, north Egypt, where 13 of the men were from, was built in the aftermath of the mass killing in February 2015 which was filmed and used as jihadist propoganda around the world. It will now be the site of their official resting place after an ISIS captive revealed the location of the decapitated bodies.

A sign which reads in Arabic, "The city of Sirte, under the shadow of Sharia" is seen as smoke rises in the background while forces aligned with Libya's new unity government advance on the eastern and southern outskirts of Sirte.Reuters

Although neither the Egyptian nor Libyan authorities have carried out DNA checks on the bodies, they will be identified by the families, according to lobby group International Christian Concern (ICC).

The brother of two martyrs, Bishoy and Samuel, said there was 'a great state of joy' after the bodies were found saying their feelings were 'indescribable. They are mixed between crying and joy.'

Father Makar Issa, a priest at The Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in the village, told ICC: 'Our Lord chose the right time for the appearance and return of the remains of the martyrs after the completion of the building of the Church of the Martyrs of Libya to receive the blessed bodies of the martyrs to be placed at the new church in the village. This church is now completed and it is ready to receive its martyred sons, the heroes who lifted the head of the church and Christians all around the world.'

Claire Evans, ICC's Regional Manager, said: 'For over two years, the families of these Christians have had to wait at home with no opportunity for closure. Both the Libyan and Egyptian authorities must do everything possible to ensure that the bodies are returned to their loved ones and buried with dignity according to their Christian faith.

'At the same time, we must not forget that these victims were originally in Libya because of a lack of opportunity in Egypt for Christians. We pray that these families will experience healing from this tragedy and for the safety of those Egyptian Christians who continue to risk their lives for the sake of their families' welfare.'