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Egypt govt houses 118 Coptic families who fled North Sinai militants

Menna Alaa El-Din , Sunday 26 Feb 2017
Egyptian Coptic Christians sit in the courtyard of the Evangelical Church in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya (AFP)
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Egypt has housed 118 Coptic families who fled North Sinai after a spate of killings of Christians by militants there, the parliamentary affairs minister told parliament on Sunday.

The state announced on Sunday it had housed 118 Coptic families fleeing from North Sinai to four governorates, according to the latest report presented by a Cabinet operation room.

Minister Omar Marawan said that 96 of the families were given shelter in the neighbouring Ismailia governorate, eight families in Qalioubiya, 12 in Assiut, and two in Cairo.

"The social solidarity ministry will bear the cost of education, accommodation and healthcare for the displaced families, as well as allocating EGP 1000 each in urgent financial aid," he added.

In the past few days, churches in Ismailia have received dozens of Coptic families who have fled Arish, in the light of a number of killings of Christians linked to militants in the governorate.

On Saturday, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ordered the government to take all necessary measures to provide assistance to Christians who have fled Sinai.

In a cabinet meeting, the president stressed the importance of countering attempts to “undermine security and stability in Egypt,” saying the displaced families, had been “received and housed until terrorist elements are dealt with.”

Last week, the Islamic State militant group released a video in which it claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a church in Cairo in December, and called on its supporters to attack Christians across the country.

Several days after the video was released, three Christians were murdered in Arish, bringing the number of Christians killed in North Sinai in the last month to seven.

Several of the other killings were claimed by Islamic State-affiliated militants.

Christians are estimated to make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s population.

Incidents of sectarian violence are not uncommon; local human rights watchdog the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights reported in August 2016 that in the first eight months of 2016 ten incidents of sectarian violence had taken place in the governorate of Minya, an area of Upper Egyptian with a high proportion of Christian residents.

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