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South Africa: Two suspects appear in court for murder of three Egyptian monks

Two suspects appear at the magistrate court in Cullinan, a town east of Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, March 14, 2024. The two suspects appeared at the court for the murder   -  
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Themba Hadebe/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

South Africa

Two men accused of fatally stabbing three Egyptian monks belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church in South Africa this week have appeared in court on Thursday and will remain in custody until their next court appearance.

Saeed Basanda, dressed in a blue t-shirt and a white bandage wrapped around his left hand, has been identified as a 37 -year-old Egyptian national.

His co-accused, Samuel Avamarkos, is identified in the charge sheet as a 47 year-old South African citizen.

They both registered their addresses as the same plot in the town of Cullinan where the murders took place.

The case has been postponed to 27 March for the two to get legal representation and an Arabic translator that they have requested.

The two were arrested after the monks were killed Tuesday at the Saint Mark Apostle and Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Cullinan, a town east of the capital Pretoria where a fourth person was also beaten with an iron rod before escaping to safety, according to police.

Members of the church wearing black robes were in the gallery of the courthouse and sat quietly as the brief proceedings took place.

According to the police, nothing was stolen during the attack and its motive remains unknown.

The Coptic Orthodox Church has its headquarters in Egypt and dioceses in several countries. It is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and has been the target of deadly attacks by Islamic militants in Egypt and elsewhere.

However, such deadly attacks on churches and places of worship are rare in South Africa and the motives for the triple killing this week remains unclear.

The Coptic Orthodox Church named the monks killed in South Africa as Monk Hegumen Takla el-Samuely, Monk Yostos ava Markos and Monk Mina ava Markos. All three were Egyptian nationals.

The Coptic Orthodox Church of South Africa said that el-Samuely was the deputy of the local diocese.

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