Coptic Christian brothers murdered, bodies mutilated in ‘revenge killing’ over 7 decades’ old dispute

Christians attend Sunday service in the Virgin Mary Church at Samalout Diocese in Al-Our village, in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, May 3, 2015. Copts have long complained of discrimination under successive Egyptian leaders and Sisi's actions suggested he would deliver on promises of being an inclusive president who could unite the country after years of political turmoil. However, striking out at extremists abroad might prove easier than reining in radicals at home. Orthodox Copts, the Middle East's biggest Christian community, are a test of Sisi's commitment to tolerance, a theme he often stresses in calling for an ideological assault on Islamist militants threatening Egypt's security. | (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)

Six Muslims in Egypt’s Minya Governate shot three Coptic Christian brothers, danced while murdering them and mutilated their bodies, claiming they were avenging the death of their own family member 70 years ago, according to a report.

The attackers from Jaweer village killed the three brothers — identified as Youssef Youssef Youssef, Afifi Youssef Youssef and Bushra Youssef Youssef — while they were working in an agricultural field in Ibshadat village of Mallawi district on March 1, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported Friday.

The Muslims shot them and then severed and mutilated their bodies, dancing as they committed their crime, ICC said, adding that Jaweer village from which they came also celebrated with musical instruments when they heard the news.

When the attackers returned to their village saying “Allahu Akbar” or “Allah is Greater,” they were captured and arrested by the police. They later confessed their crimes and even demonstrated how they killed the Christian brothers.

They are now standing trial for the murders of the three Christian brothers, one of whom had six children.

Some sources reported that the mutilating of the corpses suggested that the violence was linked to religious identity and mirrored the killings of the Islamic State.

The Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt’s population, are the descendants of a long line of ancient Egyptians who later converted to Christianity in the early first century, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

According to the Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA, Egypt is among the 20 worst persecutors of Christians in the world.

Incidents of Christian persecution in Egypt vary from Christian women being harassed while walking in the street to Christian communities being driven out of their homes by extremist mobs, the group says on its website.

Christians are typically treated as second-class citizens, and the Minya Governate area is notorious for having the highest number of attacks on believers.

Egypt’s government speaks positively about the Egyptian Christian community, but the lack of serious law enforcement and the unwillingness of local authorities to protect Christians leave them vulnerable to all kinds of attacks, especially in Upper Egypt, it explains. “Due to the dictatorial nature of the regime, neither church leaders nor other Christians are in a position to speak out against these practices.”

Churches and Christian non-governmental organizations are restricted in their ability to build new churches or run social services, it adds. “The difficulties come both from state restrictions, as well as from communal hostility and mob violence.”

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