ISIS Kills Coptic Priest in Egypt for 'Combating Islam'

(Photo: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)Relatives and neighbours of Egyptian Coptic men killed in Libya chant pro-army slogans during a protest while carrying crosses in al-Our village, in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, February 16, 2015. Thousands of traumatized mourners gathered on Monday at the Coptic church in al-Our village south of Cairo, struggling to come to terms with the fate of compatriots who paid a gruesome price for simply seeking work in Libya. Thirteen of 21 Egyptians beheaded by Islamic State came from the impoverished dirt lanes of al-Our, violence that prompted the Egyptian military to launch an air strike on Islamic State militant targets in Libya.

An Islamic State affiliate in Egypt has claimed responsibility for the slaying of a Coptic priest who was murdered in the Sinai Peninsula on Thursday.

According to AFP, the IS branch (also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh) in the Sinai Peninsula posted a statement on its social media accounts claiming that a "squad" of its gunmen were responsible for shooting and killing 46-year-old Coptic Priest Raphael Moussa in the town of El-Arish.

Reports indicate that Moussa might have been followed before he was killed. According to church spokesman Boulos Halim, Moussa had earlier left a church where he attended mass.

According to Egypt's Interior Ministry, Moussa was shot after driving to a mechanic's shop in El-Arish where he was getting his car repaired. As he emerged from the car, he was shot in the head and died instantly.

In its statement, the terrorist outfit says the priest was targeted and killed for "combating Islam."

This is not the first time that an IS affiliate has targeted and killed Coptic Christians.

In February 2015, the IS branch in Libya released one of its most notorious execution videos, showing the mass beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach near Tripoli. It is believed that the men were kidnapped by the terrorist group on two separate occasions in the months leading up to their execution.

(Photo: Reuters/Social media via Reuters TV)Men in orange jumpsuits purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State (IS) kneel in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli, in this still image from an undated video made available on social media on February 15, 2015. Islamic State released the video on Sunday purporting to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya. In the video, militants in black marched the captives to a beach that the group said was near Tripoli. They were forced down onto their knees, then beheaded. Egypt's state news agency MENA quoted the spokesman for the Coptic Church as confirming that 21 Egyptian Christians believed to be held by Islamic State were dead.

In July 2013, just days after Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed was ousted as Egyptian president, Coptic Priest Mina Aboud was killed

As a strong insurgency has been waged on the Sinai Peninsula since Morsi lost power, it was reported in the fall of 2014 that a Sinai rebel group with as many as 2,000 militants pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and its so-called caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In January 2015, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called on Muslim clerics at Egypt's most prestigious and influential Sunni school, the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar University, to help change radical Islamic rhetoric and lead a "religious revolution" that embraces a culture of peace.

"I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution," el-Sisi said. "You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move … because this umma [international Muslim community] is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost — and it is being lost by our own hands."

Following the news of Moussa's death, leaders from Al-Azhar released a statement condemning IS' murder of the Coptic priest as "despicable."

The institution's statement added that the killing violated "all tolerant teachings of Islam and all divine religions and the traditions and norms of humanity that criminalise terrorism in all its forms."

In a televised speech Wednesday, el-Sisi asserted that Egypt is on a "mission" to curb religious fanaticism.

"I fear that we have not until now found the real path to confronting fanaticism and extremism; look at the map of extremism in the world," el-Sisi said. "We are on a mission, during one of the most difficult periods not only for Egypt, but for Egypt and all Arab and Muslim states."

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