- Life Style
The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda off-shoot in Iraq, said in a statement on Wednesday that its network intends to target all Christian institutions.
On Sunday, the group killed 58 civilians and security officers and wounded 67 others, after storming the Our Lady of Salvation church in central Baghdad during mass to take the congregants hostage. During the siege, the militants demanded the release of two Egyptian females who had allegedly sought conversion to Islam but were detained by the Egyptian Coptic Church.
The group issued a 48-hour deadline to the Egyptian church to publicize the condition of the females. That deadline has expired, the statement said.
"We have not heard from any of those warned, except for proofs of their collusion, persistence on their war against Islam, and their indifference towards the lives of their fellows," it added.
The statement said the hostage scenario was carried out by five gunmen, while mentioning casualty totals similar to figures offered by the government.
In related news, an Egyptian judicial source on Tuesday told DPA the country's Administrative Court has suspended a lawsuit demanding the disclosure of the whereabouts of Kamilia Shehata, one of the alleged captives. The court ruled to hold a session to deliver its verdict at a later time.
In July, Shehata, a Minya pastor's wife, was reported missing. Her disappearance ignited protests by Copts. She may have been a forced convert to Islam. She was later found by security authorities. She then made a video in which she said she remained Christian. The footage, however, did not lead the protests to subside.
The other convert referred to in the statement is Wafaa Konstantin, whose adoption of Islam in 2004 ignited the Coptic community, who believed the conversion was coerced.
The lawyers who introduced the case demanded it bind President Mubarak to issue a decree forcing Pope Shenouda III to release Shehata, whom the petition claimed to have been confined at a monastery since 24 July.
The militants' threats drew criticism from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition movement. Brotherhood officials in an official statement on Tuesday said the group rejects all threats to Egyptian churches, saying the militant group's actions damage the image of Islam which calls for the protection of places of worship regardless of religion.
The statement also held the US occupation of Iraq responsible for fueling sectarian conflict.