The Ministry of Interior announced Monday that three terrorists involved in the assassination of Nabil Habashi in the Abtal area of North Sinai had been killed. The three had been planning further attacks on Coptic targets and on security personnel.
The ministry’s announcement came a day after terrorists claiming affiliation to the Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for the assassination of Habashi, who was kidnapped in North Sinai five months ago, and issued a warning to Copts in Egypt.
Habashi was filmed by his abductors talking about building a church in Bir Al-Abd, and how the church is cooperating with the army to combat terrorism in Sinai.
The Coptic Orthodox Church issued a statement expressing condolences for the death of Habashi: “The Church mourns the death of its loyal servant and son and rejoices for his heavenly reward for upholding his faith until the end,” the statement said.
“[We] stand in solidarity with the efforts of the Egyptian state in stamping out all hateful acts of terrorism, which increases our determination and insistence on our precious national unity. We also salute the heroes of the Egyptian Armed Forces and police.”
The North Sinai diocese issued a separate statement stressing that terrorism will not undermine national unity, and the Church will continue with services as normal in North Sinai.
Analysts believe the goal of Habashi’s murder in the month of Ramadan was to attract attention to the extremists after a hiatus in their activities of several months. Remnant clusters of extremists are desperate to show they remain capable of organising attacks: several years ago, at the peak of terrorist activity in Sinai, Ramadan, together with Eid Al-Fitr [Lesser Bairam] and Eid Al-Adha [Greater Bairam], were the most favoured dates for terrorist attacks, when military-manned roadblocks were often attacked.
It is a time which the remaining bandits who undertook Habashi’s assassination are desperate to reference as they seek to draw attention to themselves and show that they remain relevant despite their dwindling presence in former strongholds such as Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid, and Arish.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 22 April, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly