10/16/2017, 19.49
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Coptic priest’s murderer is a Islamist fanatic, says bishop

For Abba Estiganous, bishop of Beba, religion is behind the murder of "martyr" Sam'an Shehata. His murderer, Mohamed Sonbaty, attacked his own relatives in the past and set fire to their home. For neighbours, he is a known radical. The Catholic Church shares the pain and offers prayers.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – The killer of Saman Shehata, a Coptic Orthodox priest stabbed to death last Thursday, is well known to law enforcement. His name is Mohamed Sonbaty, said Abba Estiganous, Bishop of Beba, in a statement released today on the priest's "martyrdom".

The lethal attack appears to be religious in motivation. According to preliminary information, the murderer is a Muslim extremist who attacked his own relatives in the past.

Emotions are still running high in Egypt following the slaying of the Coptic priest in an area on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital. A video has appeared on social media showing the suspect chasing the victim before striking at him several times in the face and body.

The Orthodox Coptic Church in Egypt has already called Saman Shehata a "martyr" killed in "hatred of the faith" and has appealed to government authorities to change "the culture of a nation poisoned by extremism."

The funeral was held last Friday, the day after the murder, in Beni Suef, the capital of the homonymous governorate, about 115 km south of Cairo. The local community, priests and many believers attended the burial ceremony.

The Egyptian Catholic Church also joined the mourning that once again struck the Coptic minority.

In a note sent to AsiaNews, Church spokesman Fr Rafic Greiche expressed "sorrow" and "closeness" to the "martyr", noting that the entire Catholic community will pray for his family and "for peace" in the country.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Sonbaty is in prison after a detention order was issued. The latter expires today.

The authorities are checking whether he has links with fundamentalist groups active in Egypt. In the past he had attacked relatives and set fire to their house.

According to statements by some neighbours, who asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation, he is a well-known Islamic radical.

Even Sheikh Shawki Allam, Grand Mufti of Egypt, condemned the attack comparing it to a recent attack that left six security officers dead.

The Muslim leader spoke of "brutal terrorism" that makes no distinction "between military personnel or civilians, or between a Muslim and a Coptic Christian, which demands us to stand as one front against radical terrorist groups that aims to destabilize the nation.”

At the same time, a video on social media shows another Muslim cleric, Sheikh Samir Hashish, saying that those who kill non-Muslims, whom he deems to be infidels, should not punished as severely as those who kill Muslims.

In his view, they shouldn’t be sentenced to death penalty as blood of non-Muslims is not as precious as Muslims.

In recent months, Egypt’s Christian community has been the victim of various of acts of violence, including an attack in May against a bus carrying Christian pilgrims that left dozens of people dead.

Since December, almost a hundred Christians (who represent about 10 per cent of the country’s 90 million) have been killed by Islamic extremists in various incidents, including the attack against churches on Palm Sunday, and the bombing of St. Catherine's Coptic cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo, in December of last year.

All these attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State, which is active in the country.

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