Libya arrests suspected ISIS militant in connection with beheadings of Coptic Christians

Authorities in Libya have arrested an individual suspected to be a member of the Islamic State and believed to be involved in the 2015 beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in the coastal city of Sirte.

(REUTERS / Social media via Reuters TV)Men in orange jumpsuits purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State (IS) are marched by armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli, in this still image from an undated video made available on social media on February 15, 2015.

Speaking to members of the media, chief prosecutor Al-Sadiq al-Sour said authorities have already identified the location of the bodies of the 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded behind a seaside hotel in Sirte in 2015. He added that ISIS had been able to enter Libya through their neighboring country Sudan, The Associated Press detailed.

The beheading of the Copts, a video of which was published by ISIS online, had triggered airstrikes from Egypt. It is believed that hundreds of militants have fled Sirte after they were defeated by U.N.-backed forces in Tripoli last year.

On Sept. 28, the U.S. military said a number of ISIS militants in Libya were killed in two of their airstrikes launched on Tuesday. U.S Africa Command said the strike happened 161 km southeast of Sirte, Al Arabiya reported.

According to a senior Libyan prosecutor, ISIS militants in Libya had formed a desert army made up of three brigades after their defeat last year. In the last few weeks, these fugitive militants have set up check points in the south and east of Sirte and were reportedly responsible for two deadly attacks targeting local troops.

U.S. forces launched three other air strikes against the desert camps in January, on Sept. 22, and on Tuesday. Al-Sour said authorities had seized some materials after the first strikes and arrested some of the wounded ISIS fighters.

"This army was established after the liberation of the city of Sirte," al-Sour told the media. "Now they are in the Libyan desert."

In addition, al-Sour told reporters that Libyan militant al-Mahdi Salem Dangou (aka Abu Barakat) is the leader of ISIS' desert army. Under him, there are reportedly three brigades with one commander each.