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Why is IS targeting Copts in Sinai?

In a change of strategy in the area, Wilayat Sinai, the Islamic State affiliate in Egypt, has stepped up its attacks against Coptic Christians in the Sinai Peninsula, specifically in el-Arish.
Egyptian Coptic Christians sit in the courtyard of the Evangelical Church in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya on February 24, 2017, upon arriving to take refuge from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists.
Dozens of Coptic Christians have left Egypt's Sinai Peninsula after a string of jihadist attacks killed three Christians in the restive province, church officials said. / AFP / STRINGER        (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
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CAIRO — On Feb. 24, hundreds of Christians escaped the city of el-Arish in the northern Sinai Peninsula to Ismailia governorate, 110 kilometers (68 miles) to the east of Cairo, after the Islamic State (IS) and its branch in Egypt, Wilayat Sinai, focused their operations on targeting them. This sparked questions about the change in IS’ strategy in Sinai, thus confusing the Egyptian authorities that were consequently accused of slackening in protecting the Copts.

Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 23, armed men killed seven Christians in el-Arish. IS, which has been launching attacks in the city, claimed responsibility for the killing of these people, five of whom were shot while another was decapitated and the seventh was set on fire. Meanwhile, on Feb. 19, IS published a video of the December attack on St. Peter and St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, calling for targeting Christians in Egypt.

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