Arab Spring alert.

Minya, 24 June (AKI) — Hundreds of Muslim extremists surrounded a church in central Egypt and threatened to kill the local priest, the Assyrian International News Agency reported. The extremists began targeting the church in a village 7 kilometres south of the city of Minya in March after renovation work began, threatening to demolish the church.

AINA Friday cited eyewitnesses as saying that the Muslim mob, dressed in white robes and long beards, chanted: “We will kill the priest, we will kill him and no one will prevent us.”

One of their leaders was cited as saying they would “. . . cut him to pieces,” AINA reported.

The priest Father George Thabet, who was holding morning mass and was locked in the church with several parishioners. Security forces arrived five hours later and escorted the priest away in a police car to the Coptic Diocese in Minya.

Coptic youths who were attending mass remained inside St George’s church to defend it from Muslim attacks.

No police or security of any kind was present during the standoff, according to reports.

The archdiocese of Minya issued a statement deploring the incident and the “return of the Salafists to besiege St. George’s church again, some carrying weapons, threatening to kill the priest unless he leaves the village.”