By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– A Coptic priest was shot dead by Islamic extremists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula as sectarian clashes spread following the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, Egyptian security sources said Saturday, July 6.
The priest, 39-year-old Mina Aboud Sharween, reportedly died in Northern Sinai’s provincial capital, El Arish, after gunmen opened fire on him while driving by on a motorbike. Saturday’s attack also came after five police offers were killed in El Arish.
News of the killing came while presidential sources said leading liberal Egyptian politician Mohamed ElBaradei, a former head of the UN nuclear watchdog and a Nobel peace laureate, was to be named prime minister amid concerns that the sectarian tensions would spread across the country.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party has strongly criticized Coptic Pope Tawadros, spiritual leader of Egypt’s estimated 8 million Christians, for supporting the removal of the president by the military.
The Coptic pope also provoked criticism for attending the announcement by armed forces commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that he was suspending the constitution. Already dozens of Egyptians have been killed in skirmishes between pro- and anti-Morsi crowds in Cairo and Alexandria since July 5, news reports said.
ATTACKING CHRISTIAN HOMES
Earlier Christians said hard-line Muslims enraged over the ouster of the country’s Islamist president attacked Christian homes, business and church buildings in which at least one person, a Muslim, died.
On Friday, July 5, Islamists burned down 23 houses belonging to Coptic Christians in Naga Hassan village, west of Luxor, after the killing of a Muslim man and the injury of a Copt earlier in Egyptian media reported.
Security forces reportedly fired teargas bombs to stop the clashes. Church leaders said tensions have increased since Wednesday, July 3, when the first attack in the latest wave of sectarian violence erupted in the village of Delgia in Deir Mawas Minya Governorate.
Dozens of Morsi supporters attacked Al Eslah Church, a building that belongs to an evangelical congregation, Christians said.
Islamic demonstrators were seen firing shots at the church church building. They later looted the complex and also attacked some Coptic-owned homes in the area, witnesses said.
The mob reportedly moved on to a Catholic church in Delgia, St. George Church, and set aflame a guest-house where a priest lives. Christians said neighbors helped the priest to escape with minor injuries. Angry crowds were also seen attacking the church building with stones, while others fired weapons at it and destroyed the priest’s car.
Furious Morsi supporters also attacked Christian-owned shops and homes, though it remained unclear how extensive the damage was and whether people had been injured in those clashes.
Attempts by Islamists to attack the main Coptic cathedral in Qena and the Church of the Holy Virgin in the coastal town of Marsa Matrouh with stones were halted by the military, Christians said.
Police have reportedly warned church leaders however to remain on high alert amid concerns that Islamic militants roam the streets in cars with explosives to attack church buildings and other Christian targets.
Interim head of state Adli Mansour is under pressure to halt the sectarian clashes and reported kidnappings of Christians, many of them Coptic girls. It was not immediately clear whether the situation would improve with ElBaradei as possible prime minister. He leads an alliance of liberal and left-wing parties.
Copts comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s mainly Muslim population of 83 million people.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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