The Islamic State branch that operates in and around Egypt has designated the northern African country’s Christian minority their “favorite prey” in a propaganda video released this week.
In the video, the Islamic State claims responsibility for the December 2016 suicide bombing that massacred nearly 30 people and wounded dozens more inside a Christian Church in Cairo during Sunday service.
Various news outlets identified most of the victims as women, noting that the incident is the deadliest attack on Egypt’s Christians in recent memory.
In the 20-minute video, the narrator declares that Egyptian Christians are the terrorist group’s “favorite prey.”
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“God gave orders to kill every infidel,” adds one of the jihadists while carrying an AK-47 assault rifle.
The ISIS propaganda footage also features the suicide bomber, identified as Abu Abdullah al-Masri, and warns that the attack is “only the beginning.”
“Oh worshippers of the cross… the soldiers of the state are watching you,” another masked jihadist identified as Abu Zubair al-Masri says.
The Associated Press (AP) reports:
The video shows footage of Egypt’s Coptic Christian Pope, Christian businessmen, judges and priests who either speak of the need to protect the minority or use derogatory terms to refer to Egypt’s Muslim majority.
The narrator says Christians were no longer “dhimmis,” a reference to non-Muslims in Islam who enjoy a degree of state protection. Instead, the group describes the Christians as ‘infidels’ who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.
Of the estimated 95 million people who make Sunni-majority Egypt their home, 10 percent are Christians.
Last December, ISIS took responsibility for the attack, which targeted the church in Cairo next to Saint Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of Coptic Pope Tawadros II.
The massacre came months after Pope Tawadros II told Egyptian lawmakers that there had been at least one attack against Christians per month in the past three years.
ISIS’s wing in the Egyptian region is known as the “Wilayat [province] Sinai,” named after the African country’s Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel and is a hotbed for jihadist activity.
Besides causing havoc in the Sinai region, the Islamic State’s Egyptian branch has claimed responsibility for dozens of attack, primarily targeting the country’s security forces and military across the country.
ISIS attacks against Christians in Egypt’s Sinai region have intensified in recent months.
“In the past month, at least three Christians were gunned down in separate drive-by shooting attacks in the city of el-Arish,” notes AP, adding:
Egyptian President [Abdel-Fattah] El-Sissi has repeatedly assured Egypt’s Christians of his goodwill toward the community, visiting the seat of the Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo on major holidays, but many in the ancient community complain that very little has changed in their lives since el-Sissi took office in 2014, especially in rural areas where Muslim radicals frequently attack Christian homes and businesses over a range of issues, including the construction or restoration of churches, land disputes or sexual affairs between members of each community.
Although Egypt’s Christian minority community has long been a favorite target of Islamic terrorist groups, overall attacks against their group have escalated in recent years.
By mid-January, suspected Muslim extremists had killed at least three members of the Egyptian Christian minority, including a couple found in their bed with their throats slit on January 6, Coptic Christians’ Christmas Day.
According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, 77 incidents of sectarian violence have occurred between 2011 and 2016 in Minya province alone, home to Egypt’s largest Christian community.