An attack on Mar Girgis (St. George) Church in El-Arish, northeastern Egypt, has been repelled by an Egyptian police force stationed at the church premises since a previous attack in 2013.
A police armoured vehicle blew up the attackers’ car preventing the church from suffering any damage. The attack on the church came after a running battle with group of about 15 terrorists who had carried out a series of attacks on the morning of 16 October, according to the Coptic news site Watani.
The terrorist group then launched an unsuccessful attack on the National Bank of Egypt. Reports say the terror group had driven round in a green pick-up truck shouting “Allahu Akbar!” and attacked the bank detonated five bombs around the bank, killing six people including three policemen. A further 17 people were injured during the attack. Five undetonated bombs were later discovered around the bank.
The Coptic Orthodox Church issued a statement condemning the killing of six soldiers on 15 October at a checkpoint at al-Qawadis, North Sinai. The church praised the “courageous honourable martyrs of the nation, who paid with their lives to defend the nation against the vicious blows of terrorism,” and said Egypt will forever remain a fortress that will abort enemies’ plots against it.
Mar-Girgis and about 100 churches and Christian establishments nationwide were attacked, looted, and torched by the Muslim Brothers and their supporters on 14 August 2013 anti-Christian uprising, in the wake of the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood regime that came to power in 2012 following the 2011 Arab Spring.
Father Rafael Moussa, the Priest of the church was shot dead, by the Islamic State (IS) in the Peninsular, in drive by shooting after leading mass at Mar Girgis in June 2016. The group claimed responsibility. Rafael was the second priest to be assassinated in El-Arish, capital of the North Sinai governorate.
Coptic Christians in El-Arish have been targeted for attacks and killings by the radical IS terrorist groups and radical Muslims in Egypt forcing over 70 per cent of the 160 Coptic Christian families living in the city to flee.
The Egyptian armed forces promised to restore and rebuild churches damaged in the aftermath of the violence, but the renovation of Mar Girgis, which was burned and looted, is taking longer than anticipated.
A source told World Watch Monitor, that some of the remaining Christian families are living close to St Mary and St Michael Coptic Orthodox church, which the military are renovating. Other families are waiting for security in Sinai’s largest city to improve before they return, the source said.
hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos