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Coptic woman who was charged with murder of her newborn baby claims intruders were responsible

(Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Members of the special police forces stand guard to secure the area around St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral after an explosion inside the cathedral in Cairo, Egypt December 11, 2016.

Egyptian authorities have charged a Coptic Christian woman of murdering her newborn baby, but she claims that her daughter was killed by intruders.

Azza Gamal told World Watch Monitor that she was home alone with her 2-year-old twin girls, Mariam and Martha, and her newborn daughter, Mohrael, on the evening of Sept. 7, when three masked intruders and a woman wearing a niqab attacked her and took away her newborn baby.

At the time, her husband, Nour Bakhit Khalil, 30, had gone to visit his sister, who lives nearby. When Khalil heard his wife scream, he quickly ran home to see what had happened and was told that their daughter had been kidnapped.

Khalil said that he immediately went to the police station to report the kidnapping, but was told that he needs to fetch his wife and ID before filing a report. "None of them went back with me to investigate the matter or search for my daughter," he recounted.

When he arrived home, he was informed that their daughter had been found with her throat slit and her body dumped among the plants just 10 meters from their home.

The authorities launched an investigation and vowed to catch the perpetrators, but four days later, the police raided their home and arrested his wife.

"They alleged that my wife suffers from psychological problems because of her desire to have a male rather than a female child, as she [already] has two girls. Allegedly she [also] killed Mohrael because I dislike having girls and wanted a boy instead of this girl," Khalil narrated.

Khalil went on to say that his 27-year-old wife is a "religious person who has a strong relationship with God and could not do something like killing her daughter."

"As for me, I wasn't angry because my wife had a girl. On the contrary I love the girls and I was very happy when my wife gave birth to Mohrael," he contended.

The couple's priest, Fr. Philemon Abdallah Mashreqi, has said that Coptic Christians in the village have been targeted for harassment, but the police have refused to provide protection for the minority group.

There have been several burglaries of homes owned by Copts, as well as the local church, in recent months. But the authorities have not made any arrests even though a perpetrator has been caught on camera.

The couple's church has hired a lawyer on their behalf and is currently raising money to pay for the legal fees.

Coptic Christians, who account for 10 percent of Egypt's population of 92 million, have been frequently targeted by extremists who have links to the Islamic State group.

ISIS has recently vowed to wipe out the Copts and has shifted its focus from the Sinai Peninsula towards establishing a foothold in Upper Egypt, which is said to be "marginalized" by politicians and lacking in security.

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