Egypt’s Chris­tians flee­ing ISIS ter­ror in Si­nai

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

IS­MAILIA, EGYPT — Af­ter Is­lamic mil­i­tants barged into his un­cle’s house, shot him and his son dead, then looted the place and set it on fire, Said Sameh Adel Fawzy knew it was time to leave.

The 35-year-old Chris­tian, who owns a plumb­ing sup­ply busi­ness in Egypt’s trou­bled north­ern Si­nai town of el-Ar­ish, packed up a few be­long­ings and brought his fam­ily to the Suez Canal city of Is­mailia, join­ing hun­dreds of Chris­tians flee­ing a spate of sec­tar­ian killings last week.

“My cousin went to open the door af­ter he heard knock­ing,” Fawzy said, speak­ing from a youth hos­tel where au­thor­i­ties were putting up dozens of fam­i­lies who fled the town. “Masked ex­trem­ists, ter­ror­ists with a pis­tol, took him in­side and shot him in the head,” then dragged his scream­ing mother out to the street half-dressed and killed her hus­band. The woman, still in shock af­ter the Tues­day night slay­ings, sat nearby.

“They’re thirsty for the blood of any Chris­tian,” said Wafaa Fawzy, the sis­ter-in-law of Saad Hana, the man who was killed along with his son. “They were pretty clear when they said they won’t leave any Chris­tian in peace. They want an Is­lamic state.”

The killings, two of seven bru­tal slay­ings in re­cent weeks, come af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing ISIS sui­cide bomb­ing at a Cairo church in De­cem­ber that killed nearly 30 peo­ple. The vi­o­lence poses a fresh chal­lenge to Pres­i­dent Ab­del-Fat­tah el-Sissi’s gov­ern­ment to put down an ISISled in­sur­gency in north­ern Si­nai and pre­vent spillover that at times has reached the main­land.

The group’s lo­cal af­fil­i­ate re­cently vowed to step up a wave of at­tacks on the em­bat­tled Chris­tian mi­nor­ity, point­ing to a shift in tac­tics to­ward tar­get­ing Chris­tians and their holy sites, which are less pro­tected than the mil­i­tary and po­lice in­stal­la­tions that are their usual tar­gets.

North­ern Si­nai has for years been the cen­tre of an in­sur­gency by Is­lamic mil­i­tants, and the area’s few Chris­tians have slowly been trick­ling out. But de­par­tures surged af­ter sus­pected mil­i­tants again gunned down a Chris­tian man in front of his fam­ily two days af­ter Fawzy’s un­cle and cousin were killed, stok­ing panic among Chris­tians.

No mil­i­tant group claimed has re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tacks. But the ISIS af­fil­i­ate, which is based in north­ern Si­nai, re­leased a video vow­ing to step up at­tacks against Chris­tians, whom it de­scribes as “in­fi­dels” em­pow­er­ing the West against Mus­lims.

Cop­tic Chris­tians, who make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s pop­u­la­tion, have al­ways been a favourite tar­get of Is­lamic ex­trem­ists.

NA­RI­MAN EL-MOFTY, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ez­zat Yaa­coub Ishak, who fled el-Ar­ish in North Si­nai with his fam­ily Fri­day due to fight­ing, stands in a rented room fur­nished with only a mat­tress.

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