Cairo, Feb 17 (IANS) The Egyptian government said Monday that it has enforced a travel ban to Libya after the Islamic State (IS) jihadi group beheaded 21 Egyptians Sunday.

“We have thousands of Egyptians in Libya and we are in contact with them, directly or through third parties,” Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atty told reporters in Cairo, according to a Xinhua report.

“We are coordinating with the (Libyan) government along with heads of different tribes in order to secure their safety and provide facilities for those who would like to return to Egypt,” he added.

Egypt Monday carried out airstrikes on IS targets in Libya, a day after the group released a video purporting to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in the neighbouring country. At least 40 suspected IS fighters were reported to be killed in the Egyptian airstrikes.

The Guardian reported Monday that at least 35 more Egyptians were rounded up by the IS in retaliation for the air raids, though there was no confirmation of this from the Egyptian government.

Many young Egyptians, faced with grim economic prospects at home are known to have crossed over to the neighbouring Libya in search of jobs.

During the rule of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, which ended in 2001 after a popular uprising against his regime, Libya was home to some 1.5 million Egyptian employees, the Xinhua report said, adding that the deteriorating security conditions in the war-torn country, however, forced hundreds of thousands of Egyptians to return home.

Militants have frequently attacked Egyptian citizens and installations in Libya as the turmoil has worsened in the country.

Egypt is a key supporter of Libya’s internationally-recognised government in the eastern city of Tobruk and Egyptian Coptic Christians have been singled out for attacks by militants, according to the Guardian report.

Commenting on the Egyptian airstrikes against the IS in Libya, Abdel-Atty said that Egypt executed its inalienable right of self defence, in accordance with the UN charter, which gives full rights to member states for self-defence and to protect their citizens.

The foreign ministry spokesman stressed that the international community had the responsibility to react to this matter as the deteriorating situation in Libya posed a direct threat to international peace and security.

“It is paramount for the international community and specifically the (UN) Security Council to act, as it is entrusted to take different measures to maintain international peace and security,” Abdel-Atty said.

He said that Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri would meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and member states of the UN Security Council (UNSC), hoping that Egypt manages an urgent session of the UNSC.

He conveyed to the international coalition against IS, of which Egypt is a member, that the member states have to react firmly and be free from subjectiveness and double standards.

Speaking on national television hours after the release of the gruesome IS video late Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt would choose the “right way and time to avenge the murders”.