Fighters with the Islamic State terrorist group have killed a Coptic Christian teacher on his way to school in northern Sinai as persecution of the religious minority continues to escalate.
The AP reports that Gamal Tawfiq, 50, was shot in the head by two militants on a motorbike who followed him as he walked from home to work at El-Samran School in the coastal city of el-Arish.
A school official confirmed Tawfiq's death to reporters, and a security official said the Islamic State's affiliate in Sinai was the prime suspect.
Tawfiq's death was is the latest in a series of attacks on Coptic Christians in northern Sinai. It comes just days after suspected Muslim extremists shot and killed another Coptic Christian, a local vet named Bahgat Zakher, in el-Arish. Last month, another Christian, Wael Milad, a merchant, was killed by militants who stormed his shop.
Egypt is home to one of the world's oldest Christian communities, accounting for roughly 10 percent of its 92 million people. However, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List, the country ranks as the 21st worst nation in the world when it comes to the level of Christian persecution.
The Coptic Church, which is over 19 centuries old, has long complained of social prejudice and workplace discrimination and has frequently been targeted by Islamic militants.
IS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in a packed Coptic church in Cairo in December that killed nearly 30 worshippers, and last year, several Christians were shot to death in attacks.
"For long, incidents of shooting and killing Christians were sporadic, but recently we are witnessing an increase that I think will turn into a repetitive pattern in el-Arish," said Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
Between December 2014 and January 2015, ISIS militants kidnapped twenty-one Coptic Christians in Libya and released a video of their execution one month later.
The video, which stunned the world, shows the Christian men in orange jumpsuits kneeling on the sand as IS radicals stood behind them, ready to carry out the executions at a beach near Tripoli.
The 21 Copts are being remembered as the "martyrs of Libya," because they were killed specifically for their Christian faith and last year were officially registered in the book of martyrs by Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II.
Last year, a Muslim mob stripped a Christian woman and paraded her naked through the streets in southern Minya Province after it was revealed that the woman's son had been involved with a Muslim woman.