MILITANTS linked to Islamic State (IS) have claimed responsibility for the latest murder of a Coptic priest in the Northern Sinai.
A Coptic Orthodox priest at the Mar Girgis (St George) Church in el-Arish, northern Sinai, Fr Rafael Moussa, was gunned down on Thursday of last week while standing outside a car-repair shop near the church. A spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church said Fr Moussa, aged 46, who had just attended mass, was shot in the head and died instantly.
He is the second priest to have been killed by militants in three years. In July 2013, three days after the military toppled the Islamist President of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, Fr Mina Aboud Sharween was killed by gunmen in el-Arish.
And a month later, Islamist militants torched dozens of churches in revenge attacks for the killing of Morsi supporters by police during clashes in Cairo.
Taking to social media to claim responsibility for Mr Moussa’s death, IS’s Sinai Province — which operates in the Sinai Peninsula — described him as a “disbelieving combatant”, according to a translation by extremist monitors the SITE Intelligence Group.
Orthodox Copts make up about ten per cent of Egypt’s 90 million people, and are the Middle East’s biggest Christian community. They have long complained of discrimination and some have fled the Sinai region.
In a separate attack in el-Arish, one policeman was killed and three were wounded when an improvised bomb exploded as their convoy drove near a police station, the Egyptian Interior Ministry said.