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Egypt: Christian Beheaded as Islamist Violence Escalates

Hostage "beheaded" as Egyptian Islamists take advantage of unrest to target the country's Coptic Christian minority
By Chana Ya'ar and Ari Soffer
First Publish: 7/11/2013, 4:22 PM

Egyptian Islamists protest Morsi Ouster
Egyptian Islamists protest Morsi Ouster
Reuters

Amidst continuing unrest in Egypt, the country's Coptic Christian minority is facing an alarming campaign of violence at the hands of Islamist extremists. 

In the most recent case, the decapitated body of 60 year old Magdy Habashi was found early Thursday in a cemetery in the town of Sheikh Zweid, in northern Sinai, after being abducted last Saturday by suspected Islamist radicals. He was the second Christian to be killed in northern Sinai in less than a week, following the assassination of Coptic Christian priest Mena Aboud Sharoben in the coastal city of Arish by suspected Islamist gunmen last Saturday.

Elsewhere, Christian groups have reported numerous attacks against churches and Christian-owned homes by violent mobs. In one particularly grave incident, the murder of a Muslim in the southern village of Nagaa Hassan triggered claims that local Christians were responsible. Seizing the opportunity, a mob of Muslim extremists armed with axes, knives and clubs descended on the Christian community, murdering at least four people, injuring dozens and setting fire to scores of homes. 

Coptic Christians comprise only 10 percent of Egypt, which has boiled over with intrigue and rage since the January 25 revolution in 2011 that toppled the 30-year regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.

The new Coptic pope, Tawadros II, has been unusually vocal in his criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood and in supporting the ouster of the Brotherhood-backed president Mohammed Morsi. His predecessor had discouraged Copts from involving themselves in politics, fearing a backlash from the country's Muslim majority. Those concerns appear to have been well-founded.

A day after the first anniversary of Morsi’s election as president, the coup d’etat by the Egyptian Army deposed the new leader following a groundswell of protests and a petition signed by 22 million citizens, including many Christians.

Morsi was replaced with a tripartate presidential council appointed by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, head of Egyptian intelligence. The new government is to be headed by a interim President Adly al-Mansour, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi and Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, all leaders of opposition movements that are moderate and in many cases secularist. Ministerial positions will be offered to the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, according to a report in USA Today.

None are Christian, but that doesn't seem to matter to the Egypt's radical Islamists, whose scapegoating of the Christian minority appears to be escalating on a daily basis.