by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
CAIRO, Egypt — On Friday, February 24th, hundreds of Christian Egyptian families fled the country’s northern Sinai Peninsula after the Islamic State (“ISIS”) killed another member of their community following several weeks of targeted killings in the area.
At least seven people have been killed as a result of ISIS’s attacks in the past three weeks. The fleeing Egyptians escaped their homes after ISIS released a video on Sunday, “vow[ing]” to increase their attacks on Sinai’s Christian minority. Following the video, numerous attacks were carried out by gunmen in Sinai over the course of several days. ISIS claimed responsibility for beheading one man, while setting another on fire. On Wednesday, a man was killed in front of his pregnant spouse by gunmen who “then calmly drank a bottle of Pepsi” before departing. On Thursday, a plumber was shot dead at his home in front of his wife and children.
After the series of killings, most families fled their homes with nothing more than their children and some clothes. They then sought refuge at a church compound in the city of Ismailia. A volunteer with the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms stated that ISIS “want[s] to send a message that nobody is safe[.]”
The deacon of the church in Ismailia, Mr. Nabil Shukrullah, stated that the situation is extremely difficult, and that approximately fifty to sixty more families are expected to arrive. The fleeing Egyptians indicated that they are “scared of [their] shadows,” and cried out against being “targeted in an ugly way.” A refugee from the town of Arish stated that waiting for death was not an option, while characterizing ISIS militants as “ruthless.” Residents of the town reported that Christians were warned to “leave or die” after the terrorists “circulated death lists online and on the streets[.]” A vegetable seller who fled the town on Friday, Mr. Munir Adel, indicated that anyone who is Christian was put on the list. Although his father is the second name on the list, he was unable to leave his home due to his old age. Mr. Adel stated that his father “could be killed at any moment.”
The Christian Egyptians, who belong to the Coptic faith, comprise the Middle East’s largest Christian community, and make up approximately 10% of the country’s population, currently estimated to be around 90 million. Christians of the nation declared that the security measures taken towards protecting them are insufficient, while claiming that “nothing” is being done to ensure their safety. The Coptic church, which stated that the attacks were directed towards “dividing Egyptians[,]” subsequently condemned the attacks.
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