Suspected Islamic militants gunned down a Coptic Christian man and stabbed his daughter to death inside his home in northern Sinai, the seventh such killing in a month’s time in the restive region, officials and a Christian priest said today, prompting hundreds of Christians to flee from the area for fear of being targeted next.
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The militants stormed the home of Kamel Youssef, a plumber, yesterday and shot him to death in front of his wife and children in the town of el-Arish, said two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to reporters. Militants then kidnapped and stabbed his daughter before dumping her body near a police station, a priest in the city said. It wasn’t immediately possible to confirm his account.
No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack but earlier this week, Egypt’s Islamic State group affiliate, which is based in the Sinai Peninsula, vowed in a video to step up attacks against the embattled Christian minority. A spate of killings by suspected militants has spread fears among the Coptic community in el-Arish as families left their homes after reportedly receiving threats on their cell phones.
A day before Youssef’s killings, militants killed a Coptic Christian man and burned his son alive, then dumped their bodies on a roadside in el-Arish. Three other Christians in Sinai were killed earlier, either in drive-by shootings or with militants storming their homes and shops.
The priest told The Associated Press that he blamed lax security and that he himself has left the city for fear of being killed. He said that hundreds of others have also left. “You feel like this is all meant to force us to leave our homes,” he said. “We became like refugees.” Youssef Tawfiq, son of a slain Coptic teacher named Gamal Tawfiq, said his father was gunned down on February 16 by two masked gunmen 200 metres from a heavily fortified army post in el-Arish. He said no government official or agency provided any support to the family after his father’s death.
“I feel like I am carrying a mountain over my shoulders,” he said, adding, “we loved the country but our country doesn’t love us”. Coptic Christians, who make up 10 per cent of Egypt’s population, have suffered decades of discrimination. They have increasingly come under attack since the military’s overthrow of elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. A top target of Islamic extremists throughout the years, the Christians heavily supported the army-chief-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and his security crackdown on Islamists since Morsi’s removal.
The priest, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said a total of 30 Christians, including Coptic soldiers and two priests, have been killed since then.