Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Islamic State claims attack near Egyptian monastery

Saint Catherine's monastery in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt Saint Catherine's monastery in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt
Melinda Barton | 21 April, 2017, 03:19

St. Catherine's Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai, was founded in the 6th century.

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail announced that a curfew will be imposed in the area between Tal Rafah in the eastern part of Sinai, through the global borderline, reaching to Al-Ouga in the west until Al-Halal mountain.

Authorities had already declared a three-month state of emergency and vowed stronger anti-terrorism measures after twin church bombings on Palm Sunday left at least 45 dead and dozens wounded.

The attack came at a sensitive time in Egypt, just over a week before a planned visit to Cairo by Pope Francis that the Vatican has billed as an opportunity to strengthen ties between Muslim and Christian leaders.

In retaliatory firing by police, some attackers were injured which forced them to flee, the statement added.

IS's Amaq propaganda arm claimed the attack on social media.

The 1,400-year-old Unesco world heritage site is about 280 miles southeast of Cairo. The bombings were claimed by an IS affiliate based on the Sinai Peninsula.

IS, which claimed the shooting, has threatened more attacks on Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of more than 90 million people.

Special police forces stand guard as a Greek monk is seen on the top of a church at Saint Catherine's monastery, in the Sinai Peninsula, south of Egypt, in this file photo taken in 2015.

A three-month state of emergency was also announced by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and approved by parliament in the aftermath of the attacks.

Egypt has been battling an Islamist insurgency in the rugged and thinly populated northern Sinai for several years.

St. Catherine's Monastery in the Egyptian Sinai.

Israel has made a decision to extend the closure of the Taba border crossing with Egypt amid fears of possible attacks on Israeli targets by militant groups operating from Egypt's Sinai.