Egyptian army backed by Orthodox Church

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church has expressed sympathy and support for the country’s armed forces after a series of jihadist attacks in north Sinai. 

In an official statement, the Church said it supported the military’s struggle “against the forces of evil that threaten security in the region and in the world”, and invoked God’s help “to save Egypt from evil”.

The statement comes after a wave of attacks, including suicide bombings, on military checkpoints and police stations in the northern Sinai. Early reports claimed that dozens of soldiers had been killed in the attacks, reportedly conducted by about 70 members of an Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated group calling itself the Province of Sinai, but Egypt’s government claims that 17 soldiers were killed, along with roughly 100 attackers. 

The Province of Sinai was previously known as the Champions of Israel, but changed its name after it pledged allegiance to ISIS in November 2014. First established after President Mohamed Morsi was deposed, the group initially targeted Israeli border installations, before turning onto Egyptian government forces. 

At least 400 Coptic families live in the northern Sinai, although their numbers have been declining as they have retreated to safer areas in the face of hatred from jihadist groups. Direct threats against Christians have increased in Egypt since the July 2013 toppling of President Morsi, and local media report that since the assassination of Prosector General Hisham Barakat on June 29, security measures have been increased around Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II.