02/27/2017, 13.54
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Christians flee Islamic State violence in North Sinai

by Loula Lahham

In only ten days, seven people have been shot, beheaded or burnt to death. Refugees have been welcomed in Ismailia, Suez, and Cairo. Christians are Daesh’s new target.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – Dozens of Coptic families have fled El Arīsh, capital of the North Sinai governorate, following a series of attacks that cost the lives of seven Christians last week.

Located in eastern Egypt, the area covers some 61,000 sq km. In 2014, the Islamic State (Daesh) set up its self-proclaimed Wilayat Sinai it (Sinai Province).

Egyptian security forces have been fighting the group for the past five years. But for Copts, the situation has become unbearable after several of their co-religionists were murdered in the past few days.

Whilst Kamel Raouf, 40, was shot dead, his daughter Justina was beheaded and their house torched. Saad Hakim, 65, was shot dead, his son, 40, was burned alive before his eyes. Earlier in the week, a 67-year-old doctor, a 45-year-old merchant, and a 55-year-old teacher were shot to death. Seven people in just ten days.

A Church source estimates that up to a thousand Copts have fled El Arīsh, or about 40 families, out of 1,700 Copts living in the town. In view of the situation, the governor of North Sinai decided that Copts absent from school or work are on a furlough.

A Protestant church on the Suez Canal took in some of the 40 families. Donations in goods and cash have been pouring into the small church in Ismailia. Other families found shelter with relatives in the capital Cairo or in the city of Suez.

Many Copts are reacting to tragedy with a great deal of scepticism, especially after security forces stood by Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman’s funeral. The well-known cleric issued several jihadi fatwas (religious opinions) against the government, the military, culture, arts, tourism and, of course, the Copts.

For now, Sinai Copts have a stark choice: shot or burnt to death or flee. It is now their turn to be the target of the Islamic state after the security forces lost thousands of men in their attempts to counter Islamic terrorism in this area.

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