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White House Condemns Islamic State Massacre of Ethiopian Christians

FILE- Islamic State militants have abducted at least 70 Assyrian Christians, including women and children, after overrunning a string of villages in northeastern Syria, two activist groups said Feb. 24, 2015.

The White House has condemned "in the strongest terms" the mass murder of 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya claimed by Islamic State.

A spokeswoman said Sunday, "That these terrorists killed these men solely because of their faith lays bare the terrorists' vicious senseless brutality."

She said the killings show the urgent need for a political settlement to the chaos in Libya, and a unified rejection of terrorist groups.

In claiming responsibility for the massacre, Islamic State group posted a graphic video showing men kneeling on a beach and beheaded. Others are shot in the back of the head.

It is similar to a February video showing Islamic State militants cutting off the heads of Egyptian Christians.

Arab League meeting planned

An Arab League official told the French news agency military chiefs from the region would meet in Cairo this week to discuss creating a joint military force against Islamic State militants.

A United States-led coalition of several regional partners continued attacks against the IS nerve-center on Sunday, with 12 airstrikes in Iraq and one in Syria.

Reaction in Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, government spokesman Redwan Hussein said officials were in contact with its embassy in Cairo to verify the video's authenticity. Hussein said he believed those killed likely were Ethiopian migrants hoping to reach Europe. Libya has become a hub for migrants across Africa hoping to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe for work and better lives.

"If this is confirmed, it will be a warning to people who wish to risk and travel to Europe though the dangerous route,'' Hussein said.

Abba Kaletsidk Mulugeta, an official with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church's Patriarchate Office, told the AP he also believed the victims likely were migrants.

"I believe this is just another case of the IS group killing Christians in the name of Islam. Our fellow citizens have just been killed on a faith-based violence that is totally unacceptable. This is outrageous,'' Mulugeta said. "No religion orders the killing of other people, even people from another religion.''

Ethiopia long has drawn the anger of Islamic extremists over its military's attacks on neighboring Somalia, whose population is almost entirely Muslim. While the militant in the video at one point said "Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap,'' it did not specifically mention the Ethiopian government's actions.

After the February killings of the Coptic Christians, Egypt's military responded with airstrikes targeting the militant stronghold of Darna. It has not launched further strikes, though its president is trying to form a pan-Arab military force to respond to extremist threats in the region.

Coalition airstrikes

Meanwhile, a United States-led coalition of several regional partners continued attacks against the IS nerve-center on Sunday, with 12 airstrikes in Iraq and one in Syria.

Strikes in Iraq's western Anbar province have stopped IS militants from advancing in recent days, Provincial Chairman Sebah Al Heblousi told VOA.

"The US lead coalition in the past two days has airstrikes on the very important and sensitive targets of the Islamic State that have stopped terrorists from further advances. We appreciate the efforts by the coalition, but we need more aid to eliminate the Islamic State from Anbar province," Hebolousi said.

More than 90,000 people have fled their homes in the area as IS militants gained ground, the United Nations said Sunday.

"Our top priority is delivering life-saving assistance to people who are fleeing: food, water and shelter are highest on the list of priorities," said Lise Grande the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq.

Al Heblousi said some aid is arriving to parts of the province, including food and water for displaced residents, as well as police and military forces.

Balen Saleh of VOA's Kurdish service contributed to this report, Some material for this report came from AP.