CAIRO - In response to what they claim was the persecution of Muslims by the Coptic Christians in Egypt, Islamic State militants are believed to have beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians captured in Libya.

Islamic State released a video on Sunday purporting to show the militant group beheading 21 Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya.

In the video, militants in black marched the captives, dressed in orange jump suits, to a beach. They were forced down onto their knees, then beheaded. The video appeared on the Twitter feed of a website that supports Islamic State.

A caption on the five-minute video read: “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.”

Thousands of Egyptians have travelled to neighbouring Libya in search of jobs since an uprising at home in 2011, despite advice from their government not to go to one of the most dangerous countries in the region. Before the killings, one of the militants stood with a knife in his hand and said: “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for.”

Libyan parliament confirmed the death of 21 kidnapped Egyptian Coptic Christian workers.

The Libyan legislative body said that the workers were killed by the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ group, often referred to as ISIS, in the city of Sirte, according to state newspaper Al-Ahram.

20 Coptic Christian Egyptians were kidnapped at the beginning of the year in the city of Sirte on the north coast of Libya. A jihadi website circulated photos in mid-January of kidnapped Christians, also allegedly released by ‘Islamic State’ in Libya.

The purported death of the Coptic Christians caused horror in the small Egyptian village of El Aor, home to many of the abductees. “It was a dark day in the village. Everyone was crying,” Mina Thabet, from the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, said.

On Friday, the government in Egypt offered to evacuate thousands of its citizens out of Libya. Since the dismantling of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, Libya has been in a state of disarray. The region faced a civil war, splintering Libya between an internationally recognised government in the far east and Islamists who control Tripoli in the west.