February 12, 2015 | Beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya

On this day in 2015 a branch of Islamic State (ISIS) beheaded 21 Christians in Libya. The terrorist group released a video of the horrific crime.

Death is never fun but can it get much worse than beheading by a terrorist?

One of the most gruesome images of the French Revolution has to be that of the use of the guillotine. Devised by a guy named Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, it was put out as a way to carry out executions in France “in a more humane manner”. I suppose ‘more humane’ is a relative term: compared to being broken on the wheel it may well have been.

 Beheading is a fairly definitive way to end a human’s life. I know of no one who has survived one. If I have to go in this way (and I really hope not to) I guess a guillotine is best. It certainly seems to act quickly and ‘painlessly’.

On the other hand I would not want to lose my head to a terrorist. The suppression of pain does not appear to be one of their priorities. Years ago, when I was still working for CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) I recall watching a video of a Chechen Islamist terrorist sawing the head off a Russian soldier. It did not take place quietly or rapidly. The victim had his head removed from his body while fully awake and was aware that he was being slowly cut from one side of his neck to another. Truly horrific.

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No guess for what the basket is designed to catch (Photo: Public Domain)
Beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya

Terrorists do this on purpose of course. One of their goals is to spread fear (or terror). They want us quaking in our boots so that we surrender to them and cede to whatever it is they are trying to achieve. What better way to effect this than to show a screaming victim having his head separated from his or her body.

On this day in 2015 a branch of Islamic State (ISIS), probably the Sinai chapter, beheaded 21 Christians in Libya. The terrorist group released a video of the horrific crime in which the victims are shown kneeling in orange jumpsuits and contains hateful and sectarian language directed at what are essentially Arab Christians. The orange jumpsuits are a common theme, reflective of the US practice to dress inmates in this way in Guantanamo.

ISIS is of course guilty of far too many human rights violations to count: mass rapes, immolations (burning people alive), drownings, throwing people off buildings. As a result it is difficult to pick any one incident as the ‘worst of the worst’.

I’ll cast my vote, however, for seeing a terrorist slowly cut off someone’s head.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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