Christian communities across Egypt are on edge after three brutal murders in the town of El Arish, bringing the total number of killings to seven in the last three weeks.
In the latest incident, militants stormed the home of Kamel Youssef, a plumber from northern Sinai Thursday and shot him to death as his wife and children watched.
In a separate incident Wednesday, the bodies of two men were found dumped by a roadside in the same vicinity.
Officials later identified the two as Saad Hana, 65 and his son Medhat, 45. Saad was shot dead by armed militants while his son was burned alive, according to the Associated Press.
Although no specific terror group has claimed responsibility, Egyptian security officials suspect Islamic State militants operating in the area are behind the attacks.
In the past few days, several ‘kill lists’ have been posted anonymously by jihadists online, highlighting churches across Egypt, and in some cases, listing names of prominent Christians to target.
The lists were posted to various private Telegram channels including one seen by The Foreign Desk entitled “Egypt’s murtad (apostate) watch”
“Praise be to Allah.. we will post some of the churches and congregation sizes across Egypt,” the post begins, rallying pro-ISIS jihadis to target the larger churches for maximum impact.
The post instructs Muslims to “target the infidel Christians attacking their churches and those who protect them using weapons, improvised weapons, daggers and even stones.”
This specific area in the northern part of the Sinai which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel, is the frontline for Egypt’s military attempting to diminish the growth and spread of ISIS forces since the country’s 2011 Arab Spring, in which the 30-year-long rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak came to an end.
Mubarak, according to many Coptic leaders, was a long-time supporter and protector of the nation’s Christian minority.
Copts, who make up just under 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have come under increased persecution since the short-lived rule of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Morsi.
Current President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who enjoyed widespread support by Egypt’s Christians, has not been able to curb the ongoing violence against them.
Last weekend, the Islamic State released a video tribute lauding the December suicide bombing at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, which left at least 25 dead and more than 50 injured.
The video showed the alleged suicide bomber describing Christians as “infidels” who are the Islamic State’s “favorite prey.”
“Worshippers of the cross, the soldiers of the Islamic State are watching you,” the attacker says, while another militant adds “God gave us orders to kill every infidel.”