Cairo (Agenzia Fides) - Gunmen opened fire on an Egyptian police checkpoint near Saint Catherine's Monastery in Sinai late on Tuesday, April 18, killing one policeman and wounding four officials. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. After an exchange of gunfire, the attackers fled the scene, and some of the gunmen were wounded in the shootout. The monks in the Monastery, which is several kilometers from the checkpoint, had only heard the sound of gunfire, confirming that the assault did not cause damage to the monastic community. According to Egyptian media, that contacted the spokesman for the monks, Father Gregorios, said he could not state with certainty that the monastery was the ultimate target of the terrorist, suggesting that maybe the checkpoint was the primary target that jihadists intended to hit.
St. Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, currently houses about twenty Greek-Orthodox monks under the authority of an Archbishop/Abbot, and enjoys a status of autocephaly. It is considered the oldest and still active Christian Monastery, and in 2002 was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its Byzantine architecture, its priceless collection of icons and the collection of ancient manuscripts.
Already in October 2014 (see Fides 28/10/2014) St. Catherine’s Monastery had denied false information about alleged assaults suffered by Islamist groups, put into circulation by Christian media and blogs. The denial was carried out by an official statement of the Monastery, sent to Fides Agency. The press release describes disinformation operations implemented by the media as "false and irresponsible" simply to draw attention and to fabricate false alarms about the plight of Christians in Arab Countries.
The terrorism of active jihadist groups in Sinai has been aimed primarily against police and military targets in recent years. Last February, in North Sinai, jihadist acronyms also claimed seven targeted killings against members of the local Coptic Christian communities. The series of targeted killings provoked the exodus of hundreds of Coptic families from the region, (See Fides 27/02/2017). Professor Mohamed Mokthtar Gomaa, Minister of Awqaf, had declared that the attacks on churches are comparable to "the attacks on mosques," and the defense of Christians and their churches "is part of the doctrine of the Muslim faith". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 19/04/2017)