Coffins containing the remains of the bodies of Egyptian Copts killed by Islamic State militants in Sirte are carried by the plane to be transferred to Egypt, in Misrata
MISRATA, Libya/CAIRO (Reuters) - The bodies of 20 Egyptian Christians beheaded in Libya by Islamic State in 2015 were flown back to Cairo on Monday, Egyptian state television reported.
The victims had been among the many poor Egyptians who risked their lives to find work in the lawless chaos of Libya following the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and civil war.
The Coptic Christians were beheaded on a beach in Islamic State's former Libyan stronghold of Sirte, wearing orange jumpsuits, according to a video posted by Islamic State.
Their bodies were recovered in October after the area where they were buried was recaptured from the militant Islamist group.
Islamic State took control of Sirte in 2015 and lost the city late last year to local forces backed by U.S. air strikes.
A total of 21 people were beheaded in the incident. The body of a Ghanaian killed was not on board the plane that brought the Egyptian bodies from Misrata in western Libya to Cairo.
The head of the Coptic Church in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II, was at the airport to receive the remains, brought in coffins aboard an aircraft from Misrata, a local television station, which broadcast live from the airport, said.
The bodies are expected to be taken back for burial in Egypt's Minya province.
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Ayman Salhi; writing by Ulf Laessing; editing by Andrew Roche)