South African police arrest suspect in connection to murder of three Egyptian monks

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South African police on Wednesday arrested a suspect in connection to the murder in a church of three Egyptian Coptic Orthodox monks.

The motive for Tuesday’s fatal stabbings remains unclear.

“The 35-year-old man is expected to appear before Cullinan Magistrates’ Court on 14 March 2024,” South African Police Service (SAPS) said in a statement.

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The monks were murdered on Tuesday at Cullinan, 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Pretoria, SAPS said.

“Three victims were found with stab wounds while the fourth victim that survived alleged that he was hit by an iron rod on his hand before fleeing and hiding in one of the rooms,” SAPS said.

Egypt’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement it was “closely following the investigations into the killing of three Egyptian monks,” along with the country’s embassy in Pretoria.

The Egyptian ambassador hopes the investigation leads to “uncovering the circumstances of the incident, the identity of the perpetrators, and holding them accountable.”

The Coptic Orthodox Church of South Africa, in a Facebook message, expressed “deep anguish over the occurrence of such a tragic incident.”

The church and Egypt’s foreign ministry extended condolences to the families of the monks, identified on church social media pages as Hegumen Takla El-Samuely, Yostos Ava Markos and Mina Ava Markos.

According to police, the suspect or suspects left the scene without taking anything.

South Africa has one of the world’s highest crime rates and in recent months places of worship have been targeted, with criminal incidents often documented on social media.

The southern African nation recorded almost 84 murders a day between October and December, according to latest police statistics.

The Coptic Orthodox community in South Africa consists of around 4,500 families, according to the church’s website, in a country of 62 million people.

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Three Egyptian monks killed in South Africa Coptic monastery

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