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Christian families flee Egyptian town

CAIRO — Coptic Christian families have fled their homes in a town in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, fearing for their lives after receiving death threats from suspected Islamic militants, a local priest said Thursday.

Father Youssef Sobhi said militants dropped leaflets on the doorsteps of shops owned by Copts in the city of Rafah, ordering them to leave within 48 hours and making an implicit warning of violence if they didn’t. Two days later, masked militants on a motorcycle opened fire on one of the shops before speeding off, Sobhi said. No one was hurt.

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When Christians met Tuesday with the province’s top government official, who was recently appointed by Egypt’s new Islamist president, the governor promised to facilitate the Copts’ move to the nearby city of el-Arish but did not offer to protect the community to ensure that it stayed in Rafah, according to the priest.

It was not exactly clear how many Christians have left the town, but Sobhi said that the number of Copts in Rafah had dwindled from 14 families to two since the uprising that pushed Hosni Mubarak from power in February 2011.

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