The leader of Daesh “the Islamic State group” in Egypt has sent a new warning to Coptic Christians, suggesting the extremists will continue their attacks against the religious minority’s places of worship.
The Egyptian “Emir of the Caliphate’s soldiers” said in IS’ weekly newspaper al-Naba published on Thursday that churches were “legitimate targets” in the group’s war against the “infidels and tyrants”.
Three IS suicide bombings of churches killed dozens of Coptic Christians in December and April, in the bloodiest wave of attacks the country has experienced in years.
“Targeting churches is a part of our fight and war on infidelity and infidels,” the unnamed IS leader said, giving Christians three options: “convert, pay the Islamic poll tax or go to battle”.
He sent a message to Muslims, warning them to stay away from churches to avoid future attacks.
“We are warning you to stay away from Christian gatherings, as well as the gatherings of the army and the police and the areas that have political government facilities,” he said.
He added that military’s response against the group in Sinai has bolstered the resolve of the extremists and their “hatred for Christians and apostates”.
Christians, who make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 92 million, have increasingly come under attack from the Sinai-based militants.
Extremists accuse Coptic leaders of supporting the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohammad Morsi in 2013, which ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters.
IS has also threatened Sufi Egyptians and beheaded two of the Islamic sect’s clerics in its Sinai stronghold.
Egypt has been fighting a long-running insurgency by the local IS affiliate with hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians having been killed in the insurgency.
Last month, leaked footage showed Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai allegedly shooting dead unarmed, blindfolded detainees at point-blank range.