(CP) Four unidentified masked men barged into the shop of a young Coptic man in the city of Dabaa in Egypt, shot him in the head 22 times, killing him on the spot, and burned his car before fleeing the scene, according to media reports.
The victim, identified as Rani Raafat, was killed instantly from the gunshot wounds, and another man, Sherif Rashad, sustained a gunshot wound during the attack in Matrouh Governorate, Middle East 24 reported, adding that the attackers also burned Raafat's car and fled.
The father of the deceased, Raafat Nour, was quoted as saying, "I was at home in Dabaa, and a phone call came to my son to open the shop to receive goods for agricultural supplies in a project he works in the afternoon. I later received a phone call of the death of my son. When I went to the store, I found him dead and lying on the ground, overwhelmed in own his blood."
The slain Christian worked in the veterinary medicine trade and had no known enemies, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern said.
His father added, "My son had a problem in December 2021, and was beaten with a shotgun. The accused was arrested and imprisoned. We sat with his family, and they promised us that the matter would be over, and my son was transferred from El Dabaa High School to a school in Burj Al Arab ... I only want to apprehend the perpetrators and hold them accountable, and to take the right of my son through the judiciary."
Earlier this month, a 56-year-old Coptic Orthodox priest of Alexandria, Arsanious Wadid, from the Church of the Virgin Mary and St. Paul in Moharm Bek district, was stabbed several times in the neck and died en route to the hospital, ICC reported earlier.
"We have seen a second major incident in just a few weeks," ICC's president, Jeff King, said. "We are watching Egypt closely to see if these are warning signs of a more challenging future for Egyptian Christians. Our prayers are with the victim's family and we urge the authorities to conduct a transparent investigation which affirms due process of law."
The Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt's population, are the descendants of a long line of ancient Egyptians who later converted to Christianity in the early first century, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
According to the persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA, Egypt is among the 20 worst persecutors of Christians in the world.
Incidents of Christian persecution in Egypt vary from Christian women being harassed while walking in the street to Christian communities being driven out of their homes by extremist mobs, the group says on its website, adding that Christians are typically treated as second-class citizens.
Egypt's government speaks positively about the Egyptian Christian community, but the lack of serious law enforcement and the unwillingness of local authorities to protect Christians leave them vulnerable to all kinds of attacks, especially in Upper Egypt, it explains. "Due to the dictatorial nature of the regime, neither church leaders nor other Christians are in a position to speak out against these practices."
Churches and Christian nongovernmental organizations are restricted in their ability to build new churches or run social services, it adds. "The difficulties come both from state restrictions, as well as from communal hostility and mob violence."