Saint Catherine’s monastery. Photo: Joonas Plaan, CC/Flickr

One policeman was killed and four others injured when gunmen opened fire near St. Catherine’s monastery in Egypt on Tuesday (18 April), reports Reuters.

The attack, at a police checkpoint less than a kilometre from the monastery, was later claimed by the Islamic State group.

It came a week after suicide bombings at two Coptic churches left 49 people dead and at least 110 injured.

St. Catherine’s, built in the 6th Century at the foot of Mount Sinai, is considered one of the world’s most important Christian sites and, according to the Catholic independent daily La Croix International, a “symbol of Christianity“. La Croix notes that it is believed to have been built in the very place where Moses saw the burning bush, at the foot of the mountain where he later received the tablets of the Ten Commandments; many Christians visit as part of pilgrimages.

Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up about 10% of the predominantly Muslim country of 92 million people, has increasingly been targeted by Islamist militants. In a propaganda video released in February, IS said it wanted to “wipe out” Egypt’s Christians; the video also purported to show the last statement of the suicide bomber responsible for the December attack on a church in Cairo, which killed 28 people.

Earlier in the year seven Christians were assassinated in the North Sinai Governorate; the wife and mother of two of the victims saw the killer calmly tick their names off a list after he’d murdered them. The murders led to hundreds of Copts fleeing Sinai’s largest city, El-Arish, for Ismailia.