Security officials say a Christian man has been shot dead by suspected Daesh militants while inside a barber's shop in Egypt's turbulent northern Sinai.
The late Saturday killing in the coastal city of al-Arish came one day after the Daesh terrorist group's local affiliate warned it would escalate attacks against Christians. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
Ayoub is at least the seventh Christian in northern Sinai to be killed by suspected Daesh militants in recent months. The killings have forced hundreds of Christians to flee the region. At least 75 others have been killed in Daesh attacks targeting churches since December.
A Daesh leader in Egypt vowed last week to escalate attacks against Christians, urging Muslims to steer clear of Christian gatherings and western embassies as they are targets of their group's militants.
"Targeting the churches is part of our war on infidels," the unidentified leader said in a lengthy interview published by the group's al-Nabaa newsletter on Thursday. He said churches, security posts and institutions, as well as places where "crusader nationals of western countries" gather were all "legitimate targets."
Daesh is currently spearheading an insurgency in northern Sinai, where security forces have been battling militants for years. The group has been waging a deadly insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula and has claimed scores of attacks on security forces there. But it has been unable to seize population centers, unlike its early gains in Iraq and Syria, and it has also lost top militants to Egyptian military strikes in recent months. Analysts say last months' twin bombings of churches suggest the group is lashing out as it finds itself under increasing pressure in other countries.
The attacks on the Mar Girgis church in the city of Tanta north of Cairo and Saint Mark's Church in the coastal city of Alexandria came just weeks ahead of a visit by Pope Francis to show support for Egypt's large Christian minority. The worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar, marking the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem.
The second blast at the church in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, killed at least 11 people and wounded 35, according to the health ministry. Tawadros had been attending a mass at the church but a Coptic Church official said he had left before the blast.
The militants have attacked Egyptian Coptic Christians before, but their campaign against the minority picked up in December with a Cairo church bombing that killed 29 people. In Sinai, Daesh militants killed seven Copts in January and February, forcing dozens of Christian families to flee the peninsula that borders Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
Copts, who make up about one tenth of Egypt's population of more than 92 million and who celebrate Easter next weekend, have been targeted by several attacks in recent months.
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