Coptic families flee N Sinai amid extremists’ threats: activist
Egyptian security forces in North Sinai - REUTERS

CAIRO: A number of Christian families have fled their homes in North Sinai after receiving threats from extremists demanding they leave, said Abaoub Girgis, a North Sinai-based lawyer.

Between 27-30 Coptic families temporarily left their houses in Arish and other cities in North Sinai, Girgis, the coordinator of the Egypt’s Copts Coalition in the peninsula, told The Cairo Post Monday.

He claimed that some of the fleeing families received threats on their phones.
An unprecedented security campaign is taking place in the troubled northern part of the Peninsula against Islamist radical groups who have killed hundreds of army and police personnel in several attacks that escalated since the ouster of the President Mohamed Morsi July 3, 2013.

“Sinai residents are still paying the bill of June 30 [events] with kidnappings, killings, targeting and torching homes and churches and attacking innocents,” read a statement issued by the coalition.

Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) militant group, which has recently proclaimed itself as “Wilayat Sinai” or (The State of Sinai,) has released videos of its attacks and executions of army personnel and beheadings of Bedouins they have accused of collusion with the Egyptian military or Israel.

In November 2014, the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group, which controls wide swathes in Syria and Iraq.

According to Girgis, a recent gruesome video released by The IS branch in Libya showing the beheading of 20 kidnapped Egyptian Copts in Sirte city has also negatively affected the Christian families residing in the peninsula.

He said that Coptic residents are “afraid to reveal their names or identities to the media or even to me.”

The coalition statement also said that news about two killed Christian residents and torched homes in North Sinai, as well as circulated rumors of escalated attacks against Copts has increased fears among families, many of whom headed to Cairo and other governorates.

So far, there are between 200-300 Coptic families still living there in North Sinai, according to the statement.

The statement demanded authorities consider the crisis of Coptic families, which is “meant to embarrass the state and ignite a sectarian rift between Christians and Muslims.”

After over 30 army personnel were killed in an October attack by ABM, the military escalated its campaign in North Sinai by establishing a 1km-wide buffer zone along the Rafah-Gaza border. Hundreds of alleged extremists have since been arrested and killed and many smuggling tunnels were uncovered and destroyed.

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