The Saint Mark the Apostle and Saint Samuel the Confessor...

The Saint Mark the Apostle and Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Cullinan, a town east of Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, March 13, 2024. Three Egyptian monks belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church were fatally stabbed in an attack at a monastery in South Africa and a suspect has been arrested, police said Wednesday. Credit: AP/Themba Hadebe

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Three Egyptian monks belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church were fatally stabbed in an attack at a monastery in South Africa and a suspect has been arrested, police said Wednesday.

The monks were killed Tuesday at the Saint Mark the Apostle and Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Cullinan, a town east of the capital, Pretoria. A fourth person was beaten with an iron rod before escaping and hiding in a room at the monastery, police said.

The suspect arrested was a 35-year-old man. Police did not provide his name or other details. He was due to appear in court on Thursday.

The motive for the attack was unclear. It appeared that nothing was stolen from the monastery, police spokesperson Col. Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi said in a statement.

Police had said Tuesday that they were seeking multiple suspects.

Deadly attacks on churches and other places of worship in South Africa are rare.

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.

Entrance to the Saint Mark the Apostle and Saint Samuel...

Entrance to the Saint Mark the Apostle and Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Cullinan, a town east of Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, March 13, 2024. Three Egyptian monks belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church were fatally stabbed in an attack at a monastery in South Africa and a suspect has been arrested, police said Wednesday. Credit: AP/Themba Hadebe

The attacks in Egypt have subsided recently amid tighter security around Christian places of worship in the Muslim-majority country.

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. It said the monks were the victims of “a criminal attack," which resulted in their “martyrdom.”

The Coptic church has its own pope, currently Pope Tawadros II, and the South African diocese said he was aware of the attack and was “waiting to be informed of its causes.”

Entrance to the Saint Mark the Apostle and Saint Samuel...

Entrance to the Saint Mark the Apostle and Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Cullinan, a town east of Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, March 13, 2024. Three Egyptian monks belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church were fatally stabbed in an attack at a monastery in South Africa and a suspect has been arrested, police said Wednesday. Credit: AP/Themba Hadebe

The Egyptian ambassador to South Africa visited the monastery following the attack, the Coptic Orthodox Church of South Africa said. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said it was in communication with the embassy in South Africa.

___

AP writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.

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