This morning, Wednesday 31 January, the 21-year-old recruit soldier Adham Saber lost his life to sniper fire while on duty guarding the church of Abu-Seifein in the North Sinai town of al-Arish. Local sources said that Saber was among the security team in charge of guarding the church, and was standing duty in one of the watchtowers when a sniper targeted him; he died on the spot. Funeral arrangements are underway in his hometown of Sohag, some 460km south of Cairo.
Worship at Abu-Seifein’s as well as at all other churches in Arish has all but ground to a halt, since the town’s Coptic congregation has exited it.
Arish has been a battleground for jihadi terrorists who barricade themselves in the nearby cave-riddled mountains ever since the Muslim Brother rule which came to power in Egypt in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring was overthrown in 2013 by a massive 33-million-strong revolution. The proximity of Arish to Rafah on the Egypt-Gaza border, where arms smuggling is rampant, meant that the jihadis were well-stocked with weapons. Given that Copts are, as has repeatedly been declared by Daesh, the ‘favourite’ targets for terrorists and fundamentalists, they have had more than their fair share of attacks since August 2013. But matters got out of hand in February 2017, when the jihadis threatened the Copts with death if they did not leave town and, true to their word, killed six Copts in the space of three weeks. This prompted a Coptic exodus from Arish. The Copts sought refuge in other Egyptian towns; the Church, the government and the Armed Forces helped with their housing, finding jobs and schools for their children, healthcare, and other needs.
Arish Copts, however, feel they need to go back to their hometown and businesses. Two who decided to do so were killed. Nabil Saber Fawzy, 40, a barber, returned and was killed last May. Bassem Shehata Haraz, 27, went back to Arish last July, but was killed two weeks ago.
31 January 2018