News / Africa

Al-Qaida Threatens Christians in Egypt, Elsewhere in Middle East

Children run past a painting of Mariam Al-Adra (Virgin Mary) inside the entrance of the Virgin Mary Coptic church in the al-Asafra area of the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt (July 2010 file photo)
Children run past a painting of Mariam Al-Adra (Virgin Mary) inside the entrance of the Virgin Mary Coptic church in the al-Asafra area of the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt (July 2010 file photo)

Christians in the Middle East are on alert after Islamist extremists called them "legitimate targets" days after a bloody siege of a Baghdad church.  In Egypt, security has been stepped up around Christian sites as Islamists demand the release of two Coptic women who reportedly converted to Islam.

Al-Qaida in Iraq posted a internet statement saying "the killing sword will not be lifted" from the necks of Christians, in Iraq and across the region.

The speaker said his group will go after "your children" in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, adding there are hundreds of thousands of Christians and hundreds of churches on what he referred to as Islamic soil.  He said they will be targeted if Christians do not submit to his group's demands.


Among the demands of the militants, which include al-Qaida in Iraq and its umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq, is the release of two Egyptian women some Muslims claim are being held against their will after converting to Islam.

The men who attacked the Our Lady of Salvation Church Sunday in Baghdad told Egyptian Coptic authorities they had 48 hours to let the women go.  

Leaders of the Coptic church deny the women are being held anywhere, calling the assertion "an illusion in the minds of sick people."

Kamilyah Shehatah and Wafaa Constantine, both married to Coptic priests, have been at the center of a local controversy over whether they might have converted to Islam in order to gain a divorce from their husbands.  Both women have disappeared from public view.

But many Egyptian Muslims were united in the face of the militants' threats.  In a statement, the main Islamic political group, the Muslim Brotherhood, said Muslims should protect the holy places of all religions.  It urged the state to provide Christian places of worship with more security following the threats.

The government made reference to the matter in its condemnation of the Baghdad church siege, which left 57 people dead, saying Egypt categorically rejects having its affairs "pushed into such criminal acts."

Security was heightened around Coptic areas in Cairo. The area, in an ancient part of the capital, is normally well protected, a sign of the sometimes uneasy relations between the nation's majority Muslims and Copts, who make up about 10 percent of population.  

Egypt's eight million Christians make it by far the biggest such community in the Middle East.  But its numbers, like those elsewhere in the region, have declined in recent decades.    

Roman Catholic Pope Benedict spoke out again this week on the need to protect Christians across the region.

Copts say they face discrimination, and tensions have on occasion erupted into violent assaults, including an attack on worshipers celebrating this year's Coptic New Year in the central Egyptian town Nag Hammadi.  Muslim gunmen killed at least seven Christians and a Muslim policeman who tried to defend them.

Government officials say they have stepped up security for a Coptic festival that about two million Christians are expected to attend in Luxor, south of Nag Hammadi.   

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs