Al-Qaeda affiliate threatens Christians after Baghdad church attack
An al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq renewed threats on Wednesday against Christians, claiming the group's demands have gone unheeded, according to their website, DPA reported.
The militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq called for the "release" of two Egyptian women, which they said had converted to Islam and were now being forcibly held by the Coptic church in Egypt.
The militant group had first issued their warning to Christians worldwide when they claimed responsibility for a bloody hostage-taking at a Baghdad church on Sunday, which left at least 52 people dead and over 70 injured.
The group gave a 48-hour deadline for their demands to be met.
"Our demands for the women's release have not been met... therefore we announce that all Christian centres, organisations, leaders and followers are targets for jihad fighters," the group's website said.
The group said it would attack Christians and demanded that pressure be put on the Egyptian Coptic Church to "release" the women.
"The sword of murder will not be lifted from the necks of their followers until they declare their innocence from what the dog of the Egyptian Church is doing," said the al-Qaeda affiliate, specifically naming the Vatican church in their warning as well.
The two women, Camilia Shehata and Wafa Constantine, are the wives of Egyptian Coptic Christian priests.
The confused details of the women's separate disappearances and return days later has lead to protests by some of Egypt's minority Christian population, who claimed that the women had been kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam.
Meanwhile, Muslim protestors have claimed that the church is holding the women against their own will for converting to Islam. Neither Shehata nor Constantine have appeared in public nor spoken to the media since the incidents were brought to light.
For its part, Egypt intensified security around Christian religious institutions in the wake Iraq's deadly church attack.
Despite al-Qaeda's threats, Egypt's Christians, who make up the largest religious minority, have said they feel safe.
"People might be concerned about the security of the church, but no one is scared for themselves and no one has stopped coming to church because of the Iraq incident," Hadi Samir Sabri, the administrative head of the El Sodobara church in Cairo's Garden City neighbourhood, told the German Press Agency dpa.