Suspect Arrested in Fatal Attack on 3 Egyptian Coptic Monks in South Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — A suspect has been arrested in the fatal stabbing attack on three Coptic Orthodox Church monks at a monastery in South Africa, police said Wednesday. 

The monks were killed Tuesday at the Saint Mark the Apostle and Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Cullinan, a town east of the capital, Pretoria. A fourth person was beaten with an iron rod before escaping and hiding in the monastery, police said. 

The suspect arrested was a 35-year-old man. Police did not provide his name or other details. He is to appear in court on Thursday. 

The motive for the attack was unclear. It appeared that nothing was stolen from the monastery, police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi said in a statement. 

Police had said Tuesday that they were seeking multiple suspects. 

Deadly attacks on churches and other places of worship in South Africa are rare. 

The Coptic Orthodox Church has its headquarters in Egypt and dioceses in several countries. It is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and has been the target of deadly attacks by Islamic militants in Egypt and elsewhere. 

The attacks in Egypt have subsided recently amid tighter security around Christian places of worship in the Muslim-majority country. 

The Coptic Orthodox Church named the monks killed in South Africa as Hegumen Takla el-Samuely, Yostos ava Markos and Mina ava Markos. All three were Egyptian nationals. 

The Coptic Orthodox Church of South Africa said that el-Samuely was the deputy of the local diocese. 

The Coptic church has its own pope, currently Pope Tawadros II. The South African diocese said he was aware of the attack and was “waiting to be informed of its causes.” 

The Egyptian ambassador to South Africa visited the monastery following the attack, the Coptic Orthodox Church of South Africa said. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said it was in communication with the embassy in South Africa. 

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