UN calls on Egypt to avoid civilian deaths in Libya

- Egypt must ensure full respect of the principles of distinction between civilians and fighters in Libya, says UN.

GENEVA (AA) - The UN has called on Egypt to avoid civilian deaths in its airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in neighboring Libya.

The call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Tuesday came a day after at least seven civilians were reportedly killed in Egyptian air strikes on northeast Libya, launched after a video emerged online showing the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic-Christian workers by ISIL militants. 

Al Hussein said in a statement Tuesday that although the mass beheadings were a "vile crime targeting people on the basis of their religion," principles of distinction between civilians and fighters had to be respected.

Hussein said: "The brutal murder of these men and the ghastly attempt to justify and glorify it in a video should be roundly condemned by everyone."

 Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the OHCHR, told reporters in Geneva that it was not the first time that Coptic Christians and other religious sites had been targeted in Libya and the region. 

A UN report released last week documented several incidents involving the abductions of Egyptian Copts in Libya last week and last December the bodies of three members of a Coptic Christian family were found in the Libyan city of Sirte.

Adrian Edwards, the UN refugee agency spokesman, also warned that there was an "increasing pressure on foreigners" including Coptic Christians, other minorities, migrants, journalists and human rights defenders in Libya amid the ongoing conflict.

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