Egypt: ISIS claims attack at historic monastery

ISIS has claimed responsibility for an April 18 attack on a security checkpoint near the gates of St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, in which one officer was slain and four injured. Founded in the 6th century and located at the foot of Mount Sinai, St. Catherine's is believed to be the world's oldest continuously used Christian monastery, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox church. The attack came just 10 days before Pope Francis was scheduled to visit Egypt, and nine days after two deadly suicide bombings on Coptic churches, also claimed by ISIS. (Al Jazeera, BBC News, April 19)

The attack also came days after clashes were reported in the Sinai between rival tribes. ISIS-affiliated militants reportedly launched RPG attacks in response to the abduction of three of its members by rival tribesman. The dispute apparently started when militants shot at a truck smuggling cigarettes into the Rafah area, where they impose their strict version of Islamic law that prohibits the sale of tobacco. (AP, April 17)

The Parliament of Egypt on April 11 gave its unanimous approval to a three-month state of emergency put in place by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in response to the church attacks in the cities Tanta and Alexandria. Under the measure, police will be ale to arrest civilians without charge and search homes without warrants; large gatherings will be banned, and there will be tighter censorship. (Jurist, April 12)