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Egypt launched airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Libya as it ‘seeks retribution’ for the barbaric filmed beheading of 21 Coptic Christians.

There were at least seven strikes in Derna in the east of the country, which has become a hotbed of Islamic extremism since Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011.

It is the first time Egypt has announced military action against Islamist targets in its western neighbour, having previously denied it targeted militants there, and the first time militants connected with the Islamic State terror group have been hit with airstrikes outside Syria and Iraq.

The strikes are in response to a gruesome video, released last night, showing a group of orange jumpsuit-clad Coptic Christians being marched to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea by masked, knife-wielding militants.

Egyptian state television followed up the military statement by showing footage of warplanes it said were taking off to conduct the strikes.

‘Avenging Egyptian blood and retaliating against criminals and killers is a duty we must carry out,’ the military said.

The air strikes came hours after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi threatened a ‘suitable response’ to the killings of the Christians who had travelled to Libya seeking work.

Sisi, a former army chief who overthrew the Islamist president and then won elections touting his firm hand, faced a chorus of demands to retaliate after the beheadings.

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