- (Photo: Reuters/Louafi Larbi)
Masked men shot dead a Coptic priest and other attacks on the minority group were reported in Egypt after the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who is from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood that now appears to be seeking revenge from Christians for allegedly supporting the "coup."
The priest, identified as Mina Aboud Sharween, was shot dead in the coastal city of El Arish in North Sinai Governate on Saturday.
Gunmen, believed to be from the Brotherhood, came on a motorcycle and killed the 39-year-old priest, according to the local news site Egypt Independent.
On Friday, unidentified gunmen also attacked security personnel at checkpoints in North Sinai, killing five police officers and a soldier, according to Reuters.
Also on Friday, a Coptic Christian, identified as Magdy Iskandar Farid, was injured and houses and shops belonging to Christians were burned near the al-Dabe'iy area in southern Luxor Governorate. The attack followed rumors that Copts had killed a Muslim man, according to AINA news agency, which also reported that hundreds of Coptic Christians have fled the area.
Local resident were quoted as saying that the slain Muslim may have been killed by Islamists to create sectarian tensions.
The Brotherhood has criticized Coptic Pope Tawadros II for morally supporting Morsi's removal. Tawadros attended Wednesday's announcement by armed forces commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suspending the constitution.
On Wednesday, a Coptic church, St. George's, was robbed and burned, and another church, El-Saleh, was fired at in the Delga area of Minya Governorate in Upper Egypt.
"Every Coptic home they loot, they torch afterwards – Muslim homes are spared," a local Coptic Christian was quoted as saying. "Most Copts are outside of the village, not knowing whether their homes are still there or looted and torched."
Christians are more than 10 percent of Egypt's population of 84 million.
A new Islamist group called Ansar al-Shariah has called the ouster of Morsi a declaration of war on Islam and threatened violence to impose Islamic law, according to Reuters.
Morsi was elected president last year and is now believed to be under arrest.
Al-Shariah has blamed the removal of Morsi on secularists, Coptic Christians, state security forces and army commanders, calling them "crusaders." The group has also denounced democracy, saying it would acquire weapons to "deter the attackers, preserve the religion and empower the sharia of the Lord."
Violence against Christians had increased since the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, following which Islamist forces gained prominence in Egypt's society and politics.
The Coptic pope had complained of Morsi's attempts to Islamize the government. An Islamist-backed constitution the voters had approved through a controversial referendum last year established Islamist supremacy and caused concerns over the lack of full religious freedom in the Sunni Muslim-majority country.
Egypt's military has called for new elections. Morsi says his legitimacy as an elected president should be respected, warning that the nation could otherwise be thrown in to violence.