Egypt referred 48 suspected Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists believed to have been involved in several fatal church bombings to the country’s military judiciary, Egypt’s chief prosecutor said Sunday.
Egypt declared a state of emergency after ISIS militants bombed two churches in Alexandria and Tanta on Palm Sunday, killing nearly 50 people, The New York Times reports. The April attacks followed one from Cairo in December that ended the lives of over 25 members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Hundreds of Christians fled their homes February in North Sinai to escape violent persecution.
Public prosecutor Nabil Sadek revealed Sunday that some of the suspects being held for alleged involvement in the recent string of church bombings are cell leaders within ISIS, Reuters reports. Of the 48 suspects, 31 are in custody and 17 are still at large. Sadek suggested that the suspects are training in ISIS camps in Libya and Syria. Some suspects are believed to have bombed a security checkpoint in January, killing eight police officers.
Referral to the Egyptian military judiciary lays the groundwork for an eventual military trial.
Coptic Christians comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of about 90 million people. Despite a rise in sectarian violence, Coptic Christians maintain peaceful relations with the Muslim majority.
Many Egyptian Christians have perceived President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as their defender since he ousted Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. At the same time, al-Sisi has faced difficulties protecting the country’s Christian minority from persecution at the hands of religious extremists.
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