Egypt: IS claims responsibility for attack on Saint Catharine monastery in Sinai

Bruno Cirelli
Aprile 20, 2017

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which started when gunmen opened fire on an Egyptian police checkpoint near the monastery killing one policeman and wounding four others.

Egypt has fought against Islamist insurgency for several years in the thinly populated northern Sinai when it gained pace after the military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 following massive protests against his rule. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency following the incident. A police officer was killed in a gunfire attack at a security checkpoint near the monastery on April 18, 2017. It is part of the Eastern Orthodox church.

St. Catherine's Monastery is popular among visitors in its own right, while its proximity to key tourism sites including the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh is also a potential setback for Egypt's struggling tourism industry.

On Monday, Egyptian officials arrested 13 people suspected of planning attacks on the country's minority Christians as well as security forces.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shooting through its Amaq news agency, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist communications.

The Islamic State has been increasingly targeting Christians in the country over recent months, and reports say that the extremist group's attacks in general have become more and more sophisticated.

However, the move did little to quell the fears of Christian Egyptians in the country, who are among the oldest and largest Christian communities in the Middle East.

It comes shortly before a planned visit by Pope Francis to Egypt next week.

IS has threatened to carry out more attacks on Copts, which makes up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of more than 90 million people.

Zack Gold, a Sinai expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the attack showed that the Islamic State had penetrated deeper into southern Sinai than previously thought possible.

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