IS shows purported executions in Libya of Ethiopia Christians

Tripoli (AFP) - The Islamic State group on Sunday released a video purportedly showing the execution of some 30 Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya.

Addis Ababa condemned the reported killings and said its embassy in Egypt was trying to verify the video to ascertain if those murdered were indeed Ethiopians.

"We strongly condemn such atrocities, whether they are Ethiopians are not," Ethiopian Communications Minister Redwan Hussein told AFP.

The 29-minute IS video purports to show militants holding two groups of captives, described in text captions as "followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church".

A masked fighter in black brandishing a pistol makes a statement threatening Christians if they do not convert to Islam.

The video then switches between footage of one group of about 12 men being beheaded by masked militants on a beach and another group of at least 16 being shot in the head in a desert area.

It was not immediately clear who the captives were or how many were killed.

Before the killings, the video shows purported footage of Christians in Syria, saying they had been given the choice of converting to Islam or paying a special tax, and had decided to pay.

The video bore the logo of the IS media arm and was similar to past footage released by the jihadists, including of 21 Coptic Christians beheaded on a Libyan beach in February.

Feeding on the political chaos and unrest that has wracked Libya since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi, several Libyan jihadist groups have pledged allegiance to IS.

Addis Ababa says IS which seized chunks of Syria and Iraq and won support of jihadist groups across the region despite a reputation for brutality, has also gained a foothold in Ethiopia.

"There are elements of IS around Ethiopia who are already carrying out operations, even though under a different name," said Redwan, referring to the Shebab group.

"We will keep on fighting them."

- Fears for Christians -

Since the 2011 revolt, Libya has been awash with weapons, has rival governments and parliaments and is on the edge of all-out war as armed groups battle to control its cities and oil wealth.

Officials have repeatedly warned that Libya could become a jihadist haven on Europe's doorstep unless the violence stops and a national unity government is formed.

On Sunday, UN envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon said after weeks of brokering talks between rival factions that they had reached a draft accord which is "very close to a final agreement".

Speaking to reporters in Morocco, Leon also said preparations were under way for armed groups to hold direct talks to end the conflict.

Referring to the IS video and fighting in Libya, Leon said: "We know that the enemies of peace, the enemies of the agreement, will be active and be even more active in the coming days and weeks."

The IS execution of Copts in February prompted retaliatory air strikes from Egypt, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pushing for the creation of a joint Arab military force to battle jihadists.

Arab military chiefs will meet on Wednesday in Cairo to discuss how the force will be created, its role and financing, an Arab League official said.

A US-led coalition of Western and Arab nations is already waging an air war against IS in Syria and Iraq.

IS has carried out atrocities against minorities -- including Christians and Yazidis -- sparking fears for the fate of vulnerable communities in mostly Muslim nations.

On Sunday, the head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, was in Egypt to offer his condolences over the beheadings of the Copts in Libya.

Almost two-thirds of Ethiopians are Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, who say they have been in the Horn of Africa nation since the first century AD.

There are also large numbers of protestants.

Ethiopia is Africa's second largest nation in terms of population, but large numbers of its more than 90 million people travel abroad to work in menial jobs so they can send money home.

Many go to Libya, using the North African nation as a stepping stone for the perilous crossing to Europe.