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The distinctive way in which a New Jersey Coptic Christian and his family were murdered resembled executions by radical Islamists shown on the Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera, according to relatives and a close friend.

Hossam Armanious, an immigrant from Egypt, was found Jan. 14 with his wife Amal Garas and two daughters, bound and gagged with their throats slashed. Authorities have not determined whether the murders are tied to Islamic radicals, but they say Armanious received a death threat from a Muslim through an Internet chat service.

Now, people close to the family have told researcher and author Robert Spencer that an eyewitness of the bodies at the funeral home says he clearly saw that each of the family members had not suffered “stab wounds to the throat,” as the prosecutor’s report states, but horizontal slits in their throats, along with two holes bored below the slits.

The eyewitness also was able to see that the wrists of the youngest daughter were cut. The tattoo of the cross on the inside of one wrist was not defaced, however, said the witness, who added that he could not see the wrists of the other family members.

Spencer noted that shortly after the murders, members of the Egyptian consulate went to visit Armonious’s relatives to encourage them to keep quiet.

The relatives want to reserve judgment until the results of the case are released, Spencer said, but “they did say that the way the four family members were bound and gagged and the way their throats were slit with holes carved is similar to executions that are shown on al-Jazeera.”

The American public is not aware of this because the details of the executions are not often described in news accounts, Spencer noted.

Authorities are examining robbery as a possible motive, but contrary to many news reports, none of the family’s jewelry was taken, including a $3,500 ring Amal was wearing at the time of her murder.

Spencer, who has reported the case through his weblog Jihad Watch, says it’s still possible the murder was not Muslim-motivated, but the investigators have not taken steps to ensure a fair review of the evidence.

“There are too many holes here, too many inconsistencies in the official story,” he writes.

He pointed out that an Armanious family friend with whom he spoke has names and motives of possible perpetrators but is still waiting for a call from investigators.

The New York Sun reported this week that Armanious was just one of a number of Christians systematically tracked by a radical Islamic website because they debate Muslims on the popular Internet chat service PalTalk.com.

Barsomyat.com features photographs and information about Christians who actively debate on PalTalk, including a group of photographs of a Syrian Christian, “Joseph,” who now lives in Canada. One comment warns: “Know, oh Christian, that you are not far from us and you are under our watchful eyes!”

The Islamic website’s banner displays lamb with its throat being slit and a crucifix crossed out by a violent red “X.” The main heading, in Arabic, says “Christians: Revealing the Truth Behind Our Belief.”

The FBI is investigating the website, according to Northjersey.com.

“We are aware of that site, and we are looking at it,” FBI spokesman John Conway said. “It’s an interesting site to say the least. … It’s unknown to anybody right now what credence to put into this.”

Related story:

Christians stalked on Islamic website

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