Three masked gunmen targeted and killed Bassem Attallah, a Christian man, 27, after identifying him as a Christian by the cross tattoo on his wrist. According to his older brother, Osama, 38, the siblings and a Muslim colleague, Muhammad, were walking home after work when three armed men, aged between 23 and 25 stopped them. “We thought they were policemen because they weren’t masked… They were wearing black jackets,” Osama recalled. “They approached us and asked Bassem to show them the wrist of his right hand, and when they saw the tattoo of the cross, they asked him: ‘Are you Christian?’ Bassem answered ‘Yes, I am Christian,’ and repeated that again in a loud voice.”
The men then asked Muhammad his name and to show them his wrist. They saw no cross and allowed him to leave. On learning Osama’s name, which is popular among Muslims, and not seeing any cross tattoos on his wrist, they also allowed him to leave. “And then they shot Bassem in the head. I could not believe what happened to my brother. He fell on the ground in front of me and I was unable to do anything…. We lost a person dear to our hearts. My brother Bassem was a very good and kind man. He had a strong relationship with God. He was always reading in the Bible, praying and going to the church. He was loved by all people,” said his grieving brother. The murder took place in Al-Arish, Sinai, which in recent years has been the scene of many attacks on Christians—including the murder of two priests and the mass upheaval of Christian villages.
Separately, on New Year’s Day, which the Muslim calendar does not recognize or celebrate, two Christian brothers were gunned down in public by a masked man on a motorcycle. While they died en route to a hospital, the murderer escaped. At the time of the attack, they were near Christian friend’s store, which sold liquor. Coptic-owned stores that sell liquor have been targeted by those who consider alcohol haram, or forbidden by Islam. Almost one year to the day, on January 3, 2017, a Muslim man sneaked up behind a Christian shop owner in Egypt and slit his throat for selling alcohol.