A group affiliated with the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a video showing the execution of a Coptic Christian man and two others, the latest in a wave of insurgent attacks in Egypt's Sinai region.
A 13-minute video uploaded to Telegram by the IS-linked Sinai Province on Saturday shows the shooting death of Nabil el-Habashy, a 62-year-old Copt from Bir al-Abd city in the northern Sinai region.
Egyptian Streets reports that el-Habashy says in the video he helped build a church that had been “cooperating with the Egyptian armed forces and intelligence services to combat terrorism in the region.”
"As for you Christians of Egypt, this is the price you are paying for supporting the Egyptian army," the executioner warns in the video before shooting el-Habashy in the back of the head, according to AFP.
The video also shows two young tribesmen from Sinai being killed after the militants accuse them of cooperating with the state.
Violence against the Coptic Christian minority, which makes up more than 10% of Egypt's population of 100 million, has forced tens of thousands to flee in recent years. The latest episode of violence comes as the Copts gear up to celebrate Orthodox Easter on May 2.
In a statement, the Coptic Church praised el-Habashy as a “martyr" and a “faithful son and servant” who “adhered to his religion until his death.” The church statement said el-Habashy had been held captive by the group for five months.
On Monday, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said after an “intense firefight,” security forces killed three terrorists linked to the execution. Three machine guns, a bomb and another explosive device were seized during the raid in the al-Abtal area in North Sinai.
Egypt is trying to tamp down a years-long insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula, which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel. Violence against churches surged in the aftermath of the coup that ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, with many extremists blaming the Christians for his toppling.
In April 2017, IS took credit for twin suicide bombings that killed dozens of people at Coptic churches celebrating Palm Sunday in northern Egypt. In addition to targeting Christians and state security forces, the insurgents have also attacked Muslims.
In November 2017, an IS-claimed bombing at a crowded mosque in northern Sinai left more than 300 dead. The worshippers were Sufi Muslims, whose mystical form of Islam the Sunni extremists find heretical.