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Copts reportedly fleeing Rafah after death threats

AFP

Following death threats from what are alleged to be militant groups, Christian families have been fleeing the border town of Rafah in North Sinai, according to news reports and accounts from activists on Thursday.

"On Wednesday evening I received 100 percent authentic information that Christians left Rafah in Sinai because of death threats from groups,” activist and novelist Mosaad Abu Fagr said on his Twitter account Thursday.

Abu Fagr did not identify who these groups were.

Priest Michael Anton of Mary Girgis Church said nine Coptic families left town upon orders from North Sinai Governor Abdel Fattah Harahor after they received death threats and gunmen fired at stores owned by Christians.

Anton said in a telephone call to the privately owned TV channel CBC on Thursday evening that the government must provide assurances of security to not only Copts but all Egyptians, pointing out that there are nearly 5,000 Christians in Rafah, or about 900 families.

The ONA agency, affiliated with the independent ONTV channel, reported that Priest Kirolos claimed that about 10 days ago a member of his parish received a handwritten threat demanding that all Copts leave town. Kirolos stated that the note was handed over to the security authorities, but they did not take action.

Following that incident, two days ago two masked gunmen on a motorcycle fired at a store that belongs to a Copt, Kirolos stated.

"We called on the governor to transfer all Copts working in Rafah to work in Arish instead. This was based on our request; all that is being said about the forced displacement of Copts in Rafah is untrue," he said.

"We wish to live securely in our country Egypt," Kirolos continued.

The news of the displacement of Coptic families from Rafah has angered activists.

Activist Wael Khalil wrote on his Twitter that the incident proves "the inability and failure of the state to protect its citizens."

"Describing Rafah's problem as only a sectarian crisis is absurd ... It is much more serious ... They are burning the Egyptian state sovereignty in Sinai,” said journalist Wael Qandil on his Twitter account.