By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- Christians in Egypt have requested prayer after suspected Islamic militants killed four Christians in recent weeks and threatened to murder more believers, rights activists said Monday, February 20.
"Wa'el Youssef was shot dead by militants in front of his wife and son in his shop in the North Sinai town of al-Arish on January 31," explained well-informed advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC) in a statement to BosNewsLife.
MEC, which closely follows the situation, said two weeks later "militants in the same town shot and killed two more Christians, Bahgat William and Adel Shawqi". A fourth Christian, Gamal Tawfiq, was shot and killed last Thursday, February 16, the group added.
Additionally on Sunday, February, 19, video footage was reportedly published by the Islamic State group calling for Christians in Egypt to be killed.
The video was believed to feature a recording of the suicide bomber who blew himself up in a church adjacent to the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo on December 11, killing 29 people.
MEC said the developments have added to anxiety among Egyptian Christians, many of whom are comprise
The incidents are the latest in a series of Islamic attacks targeting Copts, who comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of 95 million people.
"Five years ago many Christians left the North Sinai region after a priest and a Christian trader were killed and leaflets were distributed which gave Christians 48 hours to leave the region or be killed," MEC said.
"Since the overthrow of former President [Mohammed] Morsi in 2013, numerous Christians have returned to the region. Now Christians are fearful again."
One Christian resident repotedly told the Watani newspaper: "We have been leading very hard lives since the last four killings... We can't leave because our livelihoods are here, our homes are here, and we have nowhere else to go. We keep on asking ourselves every day 'Who's next?'"
Islamic militants also regularly attack security personnel in the North Sinai region and abduct or kill civilians suspected of working with the security forces, MEC said.
"Last November in al-Arish they killed Suleiman Abu Haraz, a highly respected 100-year-old Sufi Muslim leader. Shortly afterwards they issued a threat against Sufi Muslims in Egypt, saying they must renounce their ways or be killed."
MEC quoted Christians in Egypt as saying they request prayer "for the Lord's comfort for all those whose loved ones were killed by Daesh" the word used for Islamic State, in North Sinai, as well as for "for protection for Christians and others threatened by militants, and for wisdom as to how to respond to these threats."
Christians said they also want prayers so "those responsible for the killings will be touched by God's love and will repent."