Coptic priest gunned down by ISIS in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula

Coptic priest gunned down by ISIS in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

Coptic priest gunned down by ISIS in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

In this Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015 file photo, Coptic Christians walk outside St. Markos Church in Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt. On June 30, 2016, a Coptic priest was shot and killed in the Sinai Peninsula, an act for which ISIS claimed responsibility. (Credit: AP Photo/Roger Anis, File.)

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the shooting death of a priest of the Coptic Church, a branch of Orthodoxy that's the largest Christian community in Egypt, claiming that the 46-year-old cleric was guilty of "combating Islam," and in separate incident a bombing attack left a policeman dead.

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Egyptian officials say a Coptic Christian priest and two members of the country’s security forces have been killed by suspected Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula’s turbulent north.

They say the priest, 46-year-old Raphael Moussa, was gunned down while walking in the city of el-Arish on Thursday. He died instantly after being shot in the head.

Moussa had earlier left a church in the area where he attended Mass, said Boulos Halim, a church spokesman. Christian clerics in the past have been targeted by militants in Sinai.

Another Coptic priest, Mina Aboud, was shot and killed on July 6, 2013, shortly after the Egyptian military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, an act that triggered bloody conflicts across the country and a crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Islamic militants torched dozens of churches and Christian properties a month later, after police killed hundreds of Morsi supporters in Cairo clashes.

Militants accused the Christian minority, which also includes a small Catholic community, of supporting the overthrow of Morsi, whom the army deposed after millions of Egyptians rallied to demand his resignation.

The Coptic Church, a branch of Orthodoxy, is the largest Christian tradition in Egypt, where the Christian minority makes up roughly ten percent of the national population and comprises the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

According to AFP, ISIS claimed responsibility for the assault, saying a “squad” of its gunmen killed the 46-year-old priest for “combating Islam,” in a statement posted on social media accounts.

In a separate attack, a bomb blast killed one policeman and wounded two outside el-Arish’s main hospital.

In a village near the border town of Rafah, a bomb blast badly wounded a soldier. The soldier was wounded again when an ambulance taking him to el-Arish, escorted by an armored vehicle, was ambushed by militants. Another soldier was killed.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

(Crux Staff also contributed to this report.)

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