Masked Gunmen Shoot Dead Coptic Man as Murder Spree of Christians in Egypt Continues
Three masked gunmen reportedly shot dead a Coptic Christian man in the latest attack on believers in Egypt's North Sinai. No group has claimed responsibility yet.
The Associated Press reported on Sunday that the victim of Saturday's attack is 35-year-old Bassem Attallah, though few other details were made available by security officials, who spoke anonymously.
The attack is said to have borne "the hallmarks of Islamic State militants," who have killed hundreds of Christians in various attacks across the country in the last several years.
The turn of the New Year has seen the attacks continue, with two Copts losing their lives on New Year's morning in the town of Giza.
The two victims were brothers, who were killed during an attack on their friend's liquor store by a masked gunman on the back of a motorcycle taxi with a rifle.
The brothers, Ashraf and Adel Azar, who own a parts store located near the liquor store, were apparently helping the store's owner transfer boxes of liquor from his vehicle when the assault occurred.
The store owner survived, while the gunman fled the scene and remains at large. Local residents attempted to help the Christians, but the two brothers died from their wounds on the way to a hospital.
Just days earlier, nine people were slaughtered in two terror attacks in Cairo, targeting Christians. Armed gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on people outside a church south of Cairo, while an hour later a Coptic-owned shop in the same area also came under fire.
Mostafa, an auto-rickshaw driver who was near the Marmina church, described the attack:
"Dozens of people ran to the church entrance to see the source of the shooting. I saw the terrorist lying on the floor bleeding as policemen surrounded him. He had a beard and had a big [armor] belt around him."
Still, a heavy security presence deployed at the 2,626 churches in Egypt allowed believers to celebrate Christmas, both on Dec. 25 and Jan. 7, when Copts mark the holiday, relatively in peace.
The head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, led midnight mass at a cathedral in Cairo, which was attended by President Abdel Fattah al Sisi.
Sisi was reportedly cheered by believers as he entered the cathedral, though he has also faced criticism by other Christians for failing to stop the attacks and guarantee the safety of all citizens in the country.
IS has been killing Christians, among others, as part of its operations in Egypt these past couple of years.
IS is also said to be behind the mass bombing of Al Rawdah mosque in Bir Al-Abed in November, where over 300 Islamic worshipers were killed.