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Russia Blames The West After IS Mass Beheading In Libya


Neighbors and friends of the relatives of Egyptian Coptic men killed by Islamic State militants in Libya attend mass as a banner with pictures of the men who were killed is displayed on the church wall in El-Our village in Egypt's Minya governorate on February 16.

Neighbors and friends of the relatives of Egyptian Coptic men killed by Islamic State militants in Libya attend mass as a banner with pictures of the men who were killed is displayed on the church wall in El-Our village in Egypt's Minya governorate on February 16.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has said the West is to blame for events that led to the recent mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya.

"This, of course, is all a consequence of what has been done by Western partners," Bogdanov said, describing the events in Libya as '"very alarming."

According to the TASS news agency, Bogdanov made his comments on February 16 in the wake of the release by Islamic State group militants in Libya of a video showing the apparent execution-style beheading of a group of Egyptian Coptic Christians.

The victims had been taken hostage in the Libyan city of Surt some weeks ago. The Islamic State group identified the 21 Egyptians as "people of the cross, the followers of the hostile Egyptian church."

Since the post-September 11 campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia has frequently criticized the United States and the West for interventions in the Middle East, including in Libya and Iraq. More recently, Moscow has vehemently opposed the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition in Syria, on the grounds that Washington and its allies have not requested permission from Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for strikes on Syrian soil.

Regarding the rise of the Islamic State group in Libya and the mass beheadings of Egyptian Christians, Bogdanov said that the international community should not address "the question of who bears historical guilt."

Instead, Bogdanov called on the international community to "properly analyze the situation and draw conclusions about what happened, in order to work more closely, cohesively and efficiently."

'Like A Cancer'

The Deputy Foreign Minister reiterated the now-familiar refrain that the United States and its Western allies are exhibiting double standards in the Middle East with regard to which groups they support.

"There needs to be a rejection of the double standards, where on the one hand the Islamists are good and on the other they are not very good. In reality, these are the same people," Bogdanov said. Moscow has used this argument to claim that the United States is acting hypocritically by supporting some mainstream Free Syrian Army groups in Syria while carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State group. Russia's position has been to assert that all armed groups in Syria are extremist terror groups.

Boganov warned of the growing threat from the Islamic State group, saying that the militants do not recognize state borders.

The extremist Sunni group is "like a cancer, metastasizing, growing in all directions," Bogdanov said, adding that the Islamic State threat "directly affects us too, and affects our national security interests and those of our friends in the region."

The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said that Moscow was willing to assist the international community and regional countries -- including Egypt -- in the "fight against terrorism," noting that Russia has contacts with Egypt and Libya, particularly with the Libyan government led by the current Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thani, which Bogdanov said Moscow "considers to be legitimate."

"We have experience in fighting terrorism, in our country there have been painful manifestations of terrorism. We understand the danger, it is a universal threat," Boganov said.

Bogdanov's comments regarding Moscow's willingness to provide assistance to Egypt and Libya in "fighting terrorism" come after a two-day visit to Egypt by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, during which the two countries signed agreements to reinforce military and economic ties.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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