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Christian cleric killed in attack near Cairo

Ramadan Al-Fatash, DPA on

Published in News & Features

CAIRO -- A Christian cleric was killed in an attack near the Egyptian capital Thursday.

Bishop Samaan Shehata was attacked in the city of al-Salam, northeast of Cairo, the Coptic Orthodox Church's media office said in an online statement, calling it a "regrettable incident."

Shehata was taken to hospital where he died, the statement added without further details.

The Interior Ministry, in charge of the police in Egypt, said a local man had attacked the 40-year-old cleric with a "sharp weapon," a term officially referring to a knife.

Police arrested the suspect, who was previously charged in a separate case of physically assaulting his father, the ministry added in a statement.

The ministry did not give a clear motive for the attack on the cleric.

Earlier Thursday, Egyptian media reported that a meat-cleaver-wielding man had attacked the priest, putting his age at 50.

The victim was a bishop at a church in the southern province of Beni Sueif and was on a visit to Cairo, the media said.

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In recent months, Islamist extremists have stepped up their attacks on Egypt's Christian minority.

In May, gunmen opened fire at a bus that was carrying Coptic Christians heading for a monastery in southern Egypt, an attack claimed by the Islamic State extremist militia.

A month earlier, twin suicide bombings, also claimed by Islamic State, targeted two Coptic churches killing at least 47 people. The Palm Sunday bombings prompted Egypt to declare a nationwide state of emergency for three months.

Christians account for around 10 per cent of Egypt's predominantly Muslim population of nearly 95 million people.

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