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Masked men nab Christians in Egypt

| Monday, June 16, 2014, 8:45 p.m.

CAIRO — Masked armed men, suspected to be Islamic militants, kidnapped two Coptic Christians in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in two separate incidents, and clashes between Egyptian security forces and Islamist supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsy in the capital left one policeman dead on Monday, officials said.

The abductions occurred as Egypt's designated prime minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, is finalizing a cabinet to swear in since the election of President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, the former defense minister and military chief.

Christians have continued to be targeted by Islamic militants either as retaliation for their support to Sisi or for the sake of hefty ransoms. Coptic organizations have reported dozens of abductions since Morsy's July 3 ouster — most in the south, where large concentrations of Christians are located near strongholds of Islamic groups.

In the northern Sinai — where about 10,000 Copts live — the military has waged an offensive against Islamic militants who have escalated attacks and suicide bombings against police and military since Morsy's removal.

Security and church officials said Monday that in the north Sinai city of el-Arish masked gunmen snatched Wadie Ramses, a prominent surgeon who runs the city's first private-owned hospital, about midnight on Saturday after they opened fire on his vehicle, wounding him in the leg. Hours later, they demanded a ransom of $1.4 million.

Meanwhile, Egypt's top prosecutor ordered the release of an Al-Jazeera journalist who has been on a hunger strike for more than four months to protest his prolonged detention without charges or trial.

A statement from the prosecutor's office said Abdullah Elshamy, 26, and 12 others will be set free, citing “health conditions.” His lawyer said none of the 12 others are journalists.

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