ISIS kills 7 in attack on church and bank in Sinai Peninsula

Seven people were killed when around a dozen Islamic State militants attacked an unused church and robbed a local bank in the city of el-Arish in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in broad daylight on Oct. 16, according to officials.

(REUTERS / Asmaa Waguih / Files)An Egyptian military vehicle is seen on the highway in northern Sinai, Egypt, in this May 25, 2015 file photo.

On Monday, the ISIS militants went to the center of el-Arish before dividing into two, where the first group exchanged gunfire with the guards of the Church of Saint George as a distraction. The other group drove to a local bank and gunned down the guards before emptying its safe, The Associated Press detailed.

"They looted the entire bank and left explosive devices inside," said a senior security official who asked not to be identified.

Security and military officials said the two attacks killed three civilians, including one child. Three guards and one soldier also died, while 15 others were injured. One bank employee had also been reportedly kidnapped in the attack.

The clashes on Monday came at the heels of a separate attack by an ISIS affiliate in Sinai which targeted checkpoints in the town of Sheikh Zweid. The attack left nine soldiers dead, but 24 of the militants were also killed.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 13, Egyptian authorities detained a man accused of stabbing a Coptic Orthodox priest to death on Thursday in Al-Marg, state-owned media reported. The suspect, identified as Ahmed Al-Sonbaty, attacked Father Samaan Shehata while he was passing by, Daily News Egypt relayed.

Local reports said his neighbors and eyewitnesses described Al-Sonbaty as a radical, and investigations have been launched to verify that. However, the assailant had also been previously charged with attacking his parents and burning their home, the ministry of interior noted.

The murder of Father Shehata drew condemnation from the Grand Mufti. The Coptic Church, on the other hand, published a statement on its official page that conveyed Bishop Rafael's condolences and a message to terrorists that said such attacks further strengthens the church.