Families of 21 slain Egyptians in Libya held symbolic funerals for them in their hometown in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya on Monday.
Twenty-one Coptic Egyptians were abducted in the Libyan city of Sirte on two separate occasions in December and January, only one week apart. They were beheaded in a video released late Sunday titled "a message signed with blood to the nation of the cross."
Egypt has launched airstrikes in Libya on Monday. The Egyptian military said in a statement the strikes targeted training sites and weapons and ammunition storage sites belonging to Islamic State Fighters in Iraq and Syria, located inside Libya.
Hundreds gathered inside the Virgin Mary Church in Minya to bid farewell to the slain men and pray for them. The prayer was headed by three bishops and attended by al-Azhar leaders and a number of governorate officials, including the governor.
Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb arrived in Minya on Monday evening, accompanied by a number of ministers, including Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.
Mehleb said he was in Minya to offer his condolences to the families of the slain workers, as well as the condolences of the president.
"Everyday we have casualties from the Egyptian people, be it army personnel, police personnel or normal citizens," Mehleb said in Minya, according to a statement from the cabinet. "We will continue to defend our nation and Egypt will be victorious in the battle against terrorism."
Amid the absence of the bodies of the victims, the families held a vigil for them using their photos.
The funeral was followed by a large protest condemning the beheadings.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi paid respects to those killed at a ceremony in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo earlier on Monday, also attended by Mehleb.
Mehleb issued compensation to the families of those killed worth 100 thousand Egyptian pounds for each family, according to a cabinet statement. The Prime Minister added in a statement that the slain Egyptians would be treated as "martyrs" and that monthly pensions worth 1200 pounds will be issued for their families.
Fighting in Libya has intensified since the overthrow of late Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, reaching unprecedented levels over the past year. As a result, several Libyan cities have fallen under control of armed militant groups.
Several Egyptians have been caught up in the militant fighting gripping the neighbouring country.