Egypt: Islamic State Claims Attack on Checkpoint Near Ancient Christian Monastery

In this Wednesday, Jan. 7, 1998 file photo, the shadow of Mount Sinai stretches across the valley at the foot of the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai peninsula some 240 miles southeast of Cairo, Egypt. Gunmen intercepted a tourist minivan and snatched two female American tourists …
AP/Enric Marti

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has claimed responsibility for an attack on a security checkpoint near the ancient St. Catherine’s monastery in Egypt that killed at least one policeman and wounded four others.

“Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on a police checkpoint about 800 meters (yards) from the entrance to the monastery, one of the world’s most important Christian sites,” notes Reuters.

“However, local speculation suggested it may have been a result of skirmishes between disgruntled tribes and the government,” acknowledges Christian Today.

Citing the Egyptian ministry of interior, Ahram Online reports that “unknown militants” clashed with police officers at a checkpoint on a road leading to the monastery of St. Catherine.

Ahram Online notes:

A policeman was killed and four others were injured at Mount Catherine’s security checkpoint late Tuesday in South Sinai after an exchange of fire with unknown militants, Egypt’s ministry of interior said.

According to a statement issued by the ministry, a group of militants opened fire on the checkpoint on a road leading up to the Saint Catherine monastery on top of the mountain.

Egypt’s interior ministry reportedly said authorities clashed with the jihadists until they gained control of the situation, driving the terrorists away.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on the checkpoint via its official news agency Amaq.

The attack comes about two weeks after ISIS carried out twin church bombings on Palm Sunday, killing at least 47 people.

“St. Catherine’s is named after the fourth-century martyr from Alexandria, and was built in the sixth century by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian,” points out Christian Today. “The monastery belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church, and was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003.”

“Thousands of pilgrims flock every year to St. Catherine’s, hiking to the peak of the mountain and visiting the traditional site of Moses’ burning bush,” it adds. “A tree within its walls is said to be organically related to the biblical original.”

ISIS has intensified attacks against the Christian minority in Egypt. In February, the ISIS branch in Egypt vowed to increase attack against Christians.

Caroline Doss, an Egyptian-American immigration lawyer who specializes in Coptic asylum cases and serves as the vice-president of the group Coptic Solidarity, said in March that there had been a “sharp escalation” in violent attacks against Egyptian Christians at the hands of Islamic extremists under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

“Since 2011, there has been a sharp escalation in violence perpetrated against Coptic Christians [in Egypt],” she declared during a discussion hosted by U.S. GOP lawmakers. “We have seen many churches burned and we have seen many Christian homes and businesses also burned. Unfortunately, that violence has only continued to increase.”


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