World Watch Monitor

An Egyptian Christian boy murdered on Holy Thursday (13th April) was killed by Islamic extremists hoping to further intimidate Christians in the run up to Easter, say his family.

Allam Bashay Gabriel found his 16-year-old son, Gamal, with his throat slit and lying in a pool of blood, in Qai village, Upper Egypt.

This took place four days after two Egyptian churches were bombed and on the same day that three Christian homes were burnt down in Minya.

Mr Gabriel told World Watch Monitor he suspected his son was killed by members of the Islamic State group. In February, the group said it wanted to “wipe out” Egypt’s Copts. A spate of killings of Copts then followed in the North Sinai Governorate, leading to a mass exodus of Copt’s from the main town there, El-Arish.

“The way he was killed is the way of Daesh [IS], as they are the only ones who slaughter people like that,” said Mr Gabriel. “They slaughtered my son because of his faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a war on Christians, and all honest people should stand up to those who are waging this war.”

Mr Gabriel’s cousin, Samy, added: “There are many Islamic militants in Qai who were arrested by police after the deposing of the Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi. However, since then they have been released. Why did the government do that? Did they release them so they could then come back and slaughter us? They targeted Gamal and killed him because he is a Christian and it was a message from them before Easter, to intimidate us.”

Mr Gabriel told World Watch Monitor that his son had gone to a nearby village to meet with a tutor, but did not return home.

“I tried to call him many times but his mobile phone was off,” he said. “I was very worried about him. I called my relatives to check with them if any one of them had seen him, as well as his friends, but none of them knew where he was.”

They decided to search for the boy, as Mr Gabriel explained: “In Qai, we saw two masked men riding a motorcycle and we asked them if they had seen Gamal. When we described him, the men told us to look for him near the Agricultural Society building, and then they sped off and disappeared. At the time we didn’t think more of it as our focus was on finding Gamal. Also, since the men were masked and it was dark already, we could not identify them.”

When they arrived at the Agricultural Society, they soon found Gamal, lying on the ground in a pool of blood. He had blood gushing from the top of his head and his throat had been cut.

Mr Gabriel said he couldn’t think of a “reason why anyone would want to kill my son, as we are simple family and don’t have any enemies. We have not been in trouble with anyone and there is no vendetta between us and other families. There also were no valuables that would have attracted criminals”.

Gamal, a pupil at Ezbet El-Sadia secondary school in the nearby village of Al-Nuweira, was “loved by all his friends and teachers at school”, his father said. “He was a very peaceful and polite person.”

He was buried the following day, Good Friday, at the family’s cemetery, amid tight security as many Coptic Christians attended his funeral.

Meanwhile, one policeman was killed and four others injured when gunmen opened fire near St Catherine’s monastery in Egypt on Tuesday, 18th April.

The attack, at a police checkpoint less than a kilometre from the monastery, was later claimed by the Islamic State group.

It came a week after suicide bombings at two Coptic churches left 49 people dead and at least 110 injured.

St Catherine’s, built in the 6th century at the foot of Mount Sinai, is considered one of the world’s most important Christian sites.

Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up about 10 per cent of the predominantly Muslim country of 92 million people, has increasingly been targeted by Islamist militants.