Islamic State claims responsibility for Egypt attack | World Defense

Islamic State claims responsibility for Egypt attack

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Islamic State claims responsibility for Egypt attack
By Sara Shayanian and Danielle Haynes
Updated Dec. 29, 2017

(UPI) -- The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a Coptic Orthodox church in Egypt's capital Friday that killed nine people.

The attack occurred in the Helwan district in a city on the southern outskirts of Cairo, east of the Nile River. A single gunman opened fire outside the Monastery of Saint Mina -- also identified as Mari Mina and Marmina church.

Egyptian authorities are calling the attack a foiled attempt; the gunmen had explosives that could have made the attack deadlier.

The gunman, Ibrahim Ismail, 33, had "attempted to attack another church near to the Mar Mina church, but he failed and ended up shooting two people in a shop next to it," a statement from Egypt's Interior Ministry said.

Among those killed were eight Christians and a Muslim, officials said. Among the inured were five security guards.

Officials injured and arrested Ismail. He was in possession of a machine gun, ammunition and a bomb, Ahram Online reported.

Al Arabiya reported the Islamic State militant group -- also identified as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh -- claimed responsibility for the attack on a website.

The church attack is part of a "ongoing crisis" in Egypt, said Omar Ashour, a professor of security studies at the Doha Institute.

"It's more continuity than change, we still need more details to come up, but so far Egypt has witnessed over 2,000 attacks in the last three years," he told Al Jazeera. "There are two issues one is the political crisis in Egypt which unfolded after 2013. That has not been resolved, and it's creating more and more recruitment and radicalization to armed groups of various forms."

"There is also basically a series of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism blunders which the Egyptian forces have been committing, and that is adding more and more oil to the fire."

Last month, more than 300 people died in a gun and bomb attack at a mosque on the Sinai Peninsula.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-...-church-in-terror-attack/5931514549634/?nll=1
 

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Egypt's Christians fear for safety at Christmas after church attack
Interior ministry says 14 men arrested for plot to 'violently disrupt' Coptic celebration of the festival on January 7

by Jacob Wirtschafter and Mina Nader
December 30, 2017
Wo31-Egypt.jpg

Mourners carry the casket of a female victim killed in the attack on a church in the working-class Cairo suburb of Helwan on December 29, 2017. Ayman Aref / EPA Jacob Wirtschafter, cairo

Despite official reassurances, Egypt's Christian minority say they fear for their safety ahead of the Coptic celebration of Christmas this week following Friday's attack on a church near Cairo in which nine people were killed.

Underlining their concern, the interior ministry announced late on Saturday that 14 men had been arrested for plotting attacks during Christmas. The ministry said the men, who were detained in different provinces, were part of a conspiracy directed by an armed wing of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to "violently disrupt Christmas celebrations".

Friday's shooting at the Mar Mina church in Helwan came at the end of a year of unprecedented extremist violence in Egypt, much of it targeted at the 10-million strong Coptic Christian community.

“These desperate terrorist attempts will not undermine the resolve and the entrenched national unity of the Egyptian people,” said Bassam Rady, spokesman for president Abdel Fattah El Sisi. “They only increase our determination to continue on the path to eliminate terrorism and extremism.”

Mr El Sisi has pledged to advance Muslim-Christian coexistence and will inaugurate a cathedral in Egypt's new administrative capital during the Coptic Christmas celebration on January 7, observed according the ancient Egyptian calendar.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, phoned Mr El Sisi on Friday night to offer condolences for the victims of the attack.

Sheikh Mohammed reaffirmed the UAE's solidarity with Egypt and support in standing up against the scourge of terrorism, state news agency Wam reported.

ISIL claimed the attack in a statement released via its propaganda agency Amaq, but its account conflicted with those of officials and witnesses.

The extremist group said one attacker was killed when "soldiers of the caliphate attacked Christian worshippers" but Egyptian security sources mentioned only one attacker, who was shot and wounded by one of the three policemen guarding the church. Witnesses at the church said there may have been up to three attackers.

The security sources said the attacker was a known terrorist and identified him as Ismail Ismail Mustafa, a 33-year-old metalworker and former resident of Helwan.

Ahmed El Tayyeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar, the chief centre of Sunni Islamic law and theology, condemned the attack and called on Muslims to join Copts in their Christmas celebrations.

However, the shaken Christian community is less confident in the security establishment and uncertain if the leadership's vision of coexistence can come to fruition in a region witnessing a surge in inter-religious hatred and violence.

“The incident was a rehearsal to attack us on Christmas,” said Sayed Riad, 48, a car salesman in Helwan. “We do not know what will happen in the holiday or at the administrative capital. We do know that the government has told us that they have increased security.”

Egypt’s interior ministry has said it was deploying 230,000 security personnel to protect the country’s 2,626 churches.

“But it doesn't feel like that when you live next door to a church that has been attacked,” said Mr Riad.

Hassan Mohammed, a 23-year-old rickshaw driver in Helwan, said Muslims in the area were as frightened as their Christian neighbours and that many came to the aid of the victims of the church shooting.

“I saw a little girl whose mother was on the ground and shot,” Mr Mohammed said. “I put the mom and other injured in the first car we could find to take them to the hospital.”

He said the sheikh at the nearby Dasouki mosque used its loudspeaker to warn people about the attacker.

But Ishaak Ibrahim, a Copt and chief religious minorities researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a human rights group, said anti-Christian sentiment had penetrated sectors of society that do not consider themselves extremist or ISIL supporters.

“Last Friday, villagers in Atfieh [about 80 kilometres south of Helwan] stormed a property that had been used as a place of worship by Christians. Muslims heard a rumour that church bells were to be installed atop the house where their Christian neighbours assembled for prayer,” he said.

He recited a litany of attacks on Christians this year, including the fatal stabbing of a priest in October, the killing of 28 pilgrims travelling to a monastery near the city of Minya in May, the Palm Sunday bombings at two churches in Alexandria and Tanta that killed 43 people in April, and the murders of seven Christians in El Arish by ISIL's Sinai-based Egyptian affiliate in February resulted in the mass exodus of hundreds of Christians from the northern part of the peninsula.

“There is a connection between the attack in Atfieh and this bloody assault,” Mr Ibrahim said . “We witnessed increasing attacks on Coptic Christians in 2017 and this is the just the latest in the chain.”

https://www.thenational.ae/world/me...ety-at-christmas-after-church-attack-1.691624
 

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I believe the Egyptian Coptic Christians will celebrate their Christmas on 07th Jan 2018
 

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Egypt church attack requires a broad response from an empowered civil society
Extremists have claimed responsibility, writes HA Hellyer, but the attack raises wider questions

by HA Hellyer
December 30, 2017




Egypt-Attack.jpg

Relatives of Coptic Christians grieve as during the funeral service of victims of the attacked on Mar Mina church in Cairo, Egypt. AP / Amr Nabil

For many Christian communities of the West, Christmas has come and gone. For Christian Egyptian communities, the season is only beginning, as the Coptic Orthodox calendar marks Christmas on January 7. Alas, the period has already been marred. On Friday, a church of the community was attacked by radicals, resulting in around a dozen fatalities. The scourge of sectarian violence remains in Egypt and it must be addressed.

ISIL has claimed responsibility for the vile attack, which took place upon Christians as they were at their place of prayer and upon Muslim security officials who gave their lives to protect their compatriots. The modus operandi bears the hallmarks of ISIL militants, who have targeted Christian Egyptians in their discourse as well as their acts. It is a common strategy of ISIL – the attempt to engender civil strife in order to provoke an internecine war between communities in Egypt. It is in such upheaval that ISIL and their cohorts hope to make gains, and thus they have targeted Christians and Muslim communities that they deem to have strayed from Islam. The atrocious attack on a mosque linked to a Sufi order in the north of Sinai last month was probably one example of the latter, though ISIL has yet to publicly take responsibility for it.

But it would be folly to limit responsibility for sectarian discourse to ISIL alone. Attacks like these predate the group. Sectarian incitement against Christians is all too commonplace in Egypt – radical and extremist Islamist cohorts dabble in it. It is a strange and vile discourse, one that incites against Christians, claiming they are collectively party to oppression in Egypt. And then, when attacks take place, the discourse denies culpability. Indeed, it invariably claims that such attacks are false flags, implying that murky elements in the state apparatus are responsible.

That is one element in the discussion that should be taken into consideration and when non-ISIL websites promote such incitement and sectarianism, they cannot be deemed to be remotely acceptable.

But there is more to be considered here. The Egyptian state cannot stop all terrorist activity in Egypt, any more than any other government can be expected to – such militant attacks are impossible to fully prevent – but actions can be taken, nonetheless, beyond a security response. That response has to uphold the highest standards, be it in Egypt, Europe or elsewhere, and where it does not, failings ought to be analysed and solutions implemented.

Sectarian acts and discourse are another linked matter. Christian groups have complained for years that in the aftermath of sectarian strife that is not carried out by militant groups like ISIL, accountability is insufficiently pursued. Infamous so-called reconciliation activities are pursued, which are not only lacking in transparency, but cease to provide Christian Egyptians under threat with sufficient protection. Such a flawed approach emboldens impunity and engenders an atmosphere where Christians justifiably feel vulnerable.

Clearly, there are structural issues here that officially, even the Egyptian state itself says ought to be addressed. In a recent interview, a senior Egyptian official suggested a law criminalising "religious discrimination and the establishment of a national commission for combating discrimination". Yet, other Egyptian figures in the parliament reprimanded the US Congress for raising the issue of Christian Egyptians.

All too often the issue of Christian Egyptians is raised internationally in a splintered manner, rather than in the promotion of citizenship and rights for all Egyptians. The former is not an approach that helps the long-term benefit of Christians in particular and Egyptians in general. The latter is far more preferable.

At the same time, it has to be recognised that Christian Egyptians face particular and distinct challenges – and the denial of that specific type of vulnerability comes with a cost. At a time when extremist sectarian discourse is promoted by different non-state actors with violent consequences, any type of denial of sectarianism encourages its perpetuation, and holds back the addressing of it with due seriousness.

The temptation is to criticise the Muslim religious establishment in Egypt for not doing enough to combat sectarianism, thus implying that the religious establishment implicitly supports sectarianism. That kind of framing is incorrect. The key problem in Egypt is not that the religious establishment supports sectarianism, it is that the establishment is ill-equipped. The higher leadership of the Azhar, for example, is very sympathetic to Sufism, as a mainstream religious science – but has been unable to stamp out the notion that Sufism is heretical. Empowering the religious establishment to put forward a more inclusive, mainstream approach is thus essential – but it would mean empowering its independence as well, which would mean the authorities more generally would become subjects of criticism as well. All of that is necessary to ensure that the curricula of the religious establishment is raised in terms of quality and standard. To carry out the alternative, which some are calling for, of simply dictating what the religious establishment says, would simply destroy its credibility even further, leaving more problems than exist at present.

After attacks such as these, the instinct is to focus solely on security solutions. Security solutions are, of course, important – the attackers are violent extremists – but there are wider issues that ought to be addressed. The discourse requires a wider response, from an empowered civil society. The seriousness of the scourge of sectarianism must be a top priority, as its importance cannot be overstated.

https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/...onse-from-an-empowered-civil-society-1.691524
 

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Egypt files murder charges against man held for Coptic church attack
by Reuters, Wednesday, 03 January 2018

Egypt’s public prosecutor has filed murder charges against a man accused of killing 11 people in an attack on a Coptic church and a Christian-owned shop in a Cairo suburb last week, judicial sources said.

The man, arrested after the Dec. 29 attack, was receiving medical treatment in custody for injuries sustained in an exchange of gunfire with authorities outside the church. The prosecutor ordered him detained pending investigations, the sources said.

“He is accused of premeditated murder, attempted murder, possession of an unlicensed weapon and using it for terrorist activity,” a judicial source said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks shortly afterwards, in a statement carried out by its Amaq news agency, though it provided no evidence for the claim.

Islamist militants have claimed several attacks on Egypt’s large Christian minority in recent years, including two bombings on Palm Sunday in April and a blast at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28 people.

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.p...rch-attack&catid=52:Human Security&Itemid=114
 
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