Egypt: Christians kidnapped. Islamist violence continues

June 24, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

EgyptEgypt, June 23, 2014: Two Egyptian Christians have been kidnapped by suspected Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula as the community continues to be targeted.

Wadie Ramses, a well-known surgeon, was seized in El-Arish on 14 June. The assailants opened fire on his vehicle and took him away wounded. They later demanded a ransom of ten million Egyptian Pounds (£800,000; US$1.4 million) for his release.

Two days later, Christian merchant Gemal Shenouda was captured near his home in El-Arish. No immediate ransom demand was made.

The abductions have alarmed local Christians, causing some to consider leaving the area.

It is thought that Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda, who have been behind escalating violence in Sinai, are responsible for the kidnappings. The Egyptian army has been trying to put down the growing insurgency.

Kidnapping for ransom has been a persistent problem for the Christian community amid the political upheaval and instability following the “Arab Spring” revolution of 2011.

Christian women have increasingly been targeted, but in their case not to extort money, rather to force them to convert to Islam. The Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance recorded between January 2011 and March 2014 over 550 cases of Christian girls and women being kidnapped by Muslim men and forced to convert and marry their captors. The victims are often subjected to violence and rape.

The problem dates back to before the revolution but has increased dramatically since. Pre-2011, five or six girls would go missing each month, but this figure has increased nearly three-fold.

The revolution and subsequent security breakdown emboldened Islamic extremists, who previously had been kept on a tight leash by strongman president Hosni Mubarak. The electoral success of the Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the Arab Spring gave them further confidence.

They were thus enraged by the removal of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last July and have since used violence to undermine the new military-backed regime, targeting Christians in particular for supporting it.

Christians are hopeful that the election last month of former military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi as the country’s new president will result in improved security for them. He has cracked down hard on Muslim Brotherhood supporters, but for now, Christians are continuing to suffer targeted Islamist violence.

– barnabas team

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