Coptic priest killed by Islamic State
Egypt’s military has been attempting to fight off IS attacks on its territory for years, with the jihadists often targeting churches and believers. IS radicals have warned that they will continue killing Coptic Christians, who are a minority in the country.
The Coptic community suffered another tragedy last week when a Coptic priest affiliated with a church in Upper Egypt’s governorate of Beni Suef was killed on Thursday in Cairo’s northeastern suburb of El-Marg. The priest, Fr Samaan Shehta, was in Cairo to attend a conference and collect humanitarian aid for his parish when a young unemployed man blocked the way in front of his vehicle and asked him to step down from it. He then hit the priest on the head with a cleaver and ran away. The Egyptian Coptic Church released a statement asserting that the death of priest Samaan Shehta occurred near El-salam city while he was with another priest, Benjamin Moftah, who was also assaulted. The statement did not provide further details about the second priest.
The perpetrator has been arrested and is currently being investigated to ascertain the motives behind his attack. A local journalist who asked to remain anonymous said: “It is believed that it is a hate crime that has been executed by an extremist-affiliated to IS or Salafism.”
The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, Bishop Anba Angaelos, expressed his anger at the priest’s killing: “This incident makes us once again ask so many questions. Why should a priest not be able to walk safely down a street, especially a suburban street in Cairo? Why should he be chased by a man brandishing a deadly weapon and have no one run to his aid; in actual fact, everyone was running away.”
“The Copts are an inspiring group that has been under so much pressure for their faith and yet they are standing strong and really showing the love of Jesus in the face of great opposition,” said David Curry, CEO and president of Open Door USA.
In an unrelated attack, at least seven people were killed after suspected Islamic State terror group radicals attacked a bank and the unused Church of Saint George in El-Arish. The militants were seen waving their black IS flags through the streets in celebration. “The militants fired shots randomly in the street as if they were celebrating with some of them raising their black flags (of ISIS) and they roamed the streets for about 20 minutes then disappeared,” said Alaa Lotfy, a shop owner who witnessed the attack.