Terror group threatens Gaza Christians

Previously unknown Army of Guidance threatens to avenge Pope's comments.

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September 19, 2006 18:06
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A previously unknown Islamic group calling itself "The Army of Guidance" pledged Tuesday to strike at Christian targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for recent remarks by the pope deemed offensive by many Muslims. In a lecture in Germany last week, Pope Benedict XVI cited a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

  • Jerusalem mufti demands apology from Pope In response, St. Perfidious, a 1,400-year-old Greek Orthodox church in Gaza, was lightly damaged Friday in an attack by unknown assailants. "Every place relevant to Christians will be a target," said a statement from The Army of Guidance sent to news organizations in Gaza. "This will be until the accursed infidel, the Vatican, apologizes to Muslims." Benedict said Sunday that he was "deeply sorry" that Muslims took offense. He said the emperor's words did not reflect his own opinion, but the top Muslim clergyman in the Palestinian territories, the mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, said Tuesday that the pontiff's apology was "insufficient."
  • Jerusalem mufti demands apology from Pope Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal said security forces in Gaza had been ordered to protect Christian sites in light of the latest uproar, but he did not see Tuesday's statement as evidence of a serious threat. "This is a new name and an unknown group," he said. "I think this is empty talk, it's a fake name." Christians are believed to number about 50,000 people in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, about two percent of the Palestinian population there. Interfaith relations are generally good - though tensions periodically flare. In Gaza, the tiny Christian community - estimated at several thousand people - lives among 1.4 million mostly conservative Muslims. Witnesses said that the local Greek Orthodox church, the Catholic church, the Baptist and Evangelical churches, and Christian schools were under 24-hour police guard.


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