Islamists vow to 'kill more Copts' in Egypt

Islamist militants in Egypt have vowed to 'kill more Copts' after shooting dead a 27-year-old Christian because he had a cross on his wrist.

Bassem Herz Attalhah, also known as Haythem Shehata, was on his way home from work in El-Arish, capital of North Sinai governorate, on Saturday evening when he was attacked by three armed militants, according to the persecution news site World Watch Monitor.

Many Copts have a cross tattooed on their wrist or hand to identify themselves as Christian.World Watch Monitor

After the killing Bassem's close friend called his mobile only to find it answered by the attackers. 'The terrorists answered me and said they belong to State of Sinai and promised to kill more Copts before they put down the phone,' he told WWM.

The militants confronted Bassem when he was with his brother Osama and neighbour Mohamed. Both of them escaped but Bassem was shot because he had a cross tattooed on his wrist.

Describing the incident to the persecution watchdog, Osama said: 'We thought they were policemen because they weren't masked... They were wearing black jackets.'

He added: 'They approached us and asked Bassem to show them the wrist of his right hand, and when they saw the tattoo of the cross, they asked him: "Are you Christian?" Bassem answered "Yes, I am Christian", and repeated that again in a loud voice.'

Osama escaped because his own tattoo was on the top of his hand and hidden when the militants asked to see his wrists.

'They fired two shots on the ground close to my legs and asked me to leave,' he said. 'And then they shot Bassem in the head. I could not believe what happened to my brother. He fell on the ground in front of me and I was unable to do anything.'

He added: 'We lost a person dear to our hearts. My brother Bassem was a very good and kind man. He had a strong relationship with God. He was always reading in the Bible, praying and going to the church. He was loved by all people.'

It comes after Egypt was named as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a Christian after an 'unprecedented' rise in persecution, according to another persecution charity Open Doors.

More than 200 people were driven from their homes and 128 killed in the last year as hardline Islamist extremists, pushed out of Syria and Iraq, have fled to Turkey and Egypt bringing a sharp rise in violence and aggression towards Christians there.