North Sinai Copts refuse to leave despite threats; governor denies problem

Christian residents in the Sinai towns of Rafah and Arish are refusing to leave town pursuant to anonymous violent threats against them, despite the church's urging that they do so.

Earlier this week leaflets were posted on the walls of the shops and homes of seven Christian families threatening to blow up their property if they did not leave the cities within 48 hours.

Gabriel Habib, a priest at the Church of the Virgin and the Archangel Mikhaeel in Arish, said that Christian families there are refusing to leave, saying they would not give the radicals what they wanted.

"Even if we die, we are not less than the martyrs who paid their lives for the sake of their country and religion. We are staying among our Muslim neighbors,” Habib quoted one resident as saying.

"The Church of Rafah was destroyed during the events of the 25 January revolution and has not yet been reconstructed. Prayers there have stopped because of the current security conditions in Sinai," Habib said.

Kerolos Victor, the under-archdiocese of North Sinai, said that security officials have not been able to identify those responsible for distributing the leaflets. Security officials stated that they were likely distributed by local Muslim residents as part of continued protests against the film insulting the Prophet Mohamed that recently went viral, sparking protests across the region, Victor said.

North Sinai Governor Abdel Fattah Harhour denied the existence of the leaflets on Tuesday evening after media outlets first broke the story.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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