Churches attacked in Egypt

The escalation of Muslim attacks on Christian churches in Egypt continues unabated.

According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), there were two attacks last week, one in Alexandria and one in Menbal in Upper Egypt. They were both allegedly prompted by harassment of Muslim women.

AINA said the church of St Mary, in the Dakhela district, west of Alexandria, was attacked by Molotov cocktails and bricks, causing the gate to burn and the breaking of most of the stained glass windows. One Copt was killed and several injured.

According to the official police explanation, Copt Basem Ramzy Michael was seen by Muslim Hamada Alloshy, a convicted criminal, allegedly leaning over his balcony trying to look into the ground floor apartment of Alloshy's sister.

An argument occurred and when the church was attacked, hundreds of Copts hurried to the area to defend the church, among whom was Sedky Sherif, 36, a father of three children.

According to his nephew Rabah, who was with him at the time of his death, 1,000 Copts were attacked by over 20,000 Muslims, who were firing bird shots at them and throwing bricks. While the church was being attacked the Muslims were shouting "Allahu Akbar".

AINA said security forces were sent out to diffuse the situation and disperse the crowd. They made several arrests on both sides.

According to the security report, the Copt "died of fright", suffering a heart attack after hearing the sound of gunfire. However, according to his family and those who saw him, his body was full of bruises and marks from bird shots.

AINA said Sherif's family and relatives of Sedky Sherif waited at Kom el Dekka morgue to receive his body and the results of the autopsy. A death certificate was issued citing cause of death as "under investigation."

AINA reported that Weesa Fawzy from Al-Kalema Human Rights Center said is the first time a death certificate has been issued with the cause of death still under investigation.

Fawzy said, "Has he been seen by the forensics team or not, so how are they still investigating when the body is already buried?"

AINA said Coptic Mina Milad Saber, 19, was severely injured in the attack and underwent brain surgery. However, he was found shackled to his bed by police for fear he might escape, although he is still in a coma.

AINA reported that Fawzy said most Christians who were injured during the attack either went privately for treatment or quietly left hospital, "(or) it will end by them being arrested too."

In another incident, AINA reported, on May 13 in the village of Menbal, district of Matay, north of Minya province, a Muslim mob stormed the village church of Prince Tadros el-Mashreki and assaulted a person inside. They threw stones and broke everything inside the church, including doors and windows.

The mob then went along the streets, looting and destroying all Coptic-owned businesses and pharmacies and torching cars.

Copts were also threatened with expulsion from the village. AINA said according to witnesses, any Copt who encountered the street mob was beaten up.

Attorney Dr. Ehab Ramzy, a former MP, said that Menbal has a Muslim majority while Manshiet Menbal, 10 kilometers away, has a Coptic majority.

AINA said on the afternoon of May 13, three Muslim youths went to Manshiet Menbal and harassed Coptic girls as they came out of church.

"As they drove by, the Muslims threw plastic bags filled with urine at the girls," AINA reported Ramzy said. "The Coptic youth defended the girls and, being outnumbered, the Muslims left."

A couple of hours later Muslims congregated and attacked the church and the Coptic minority in Menbal.

"The two villages have nothing to do with each other, and Copts in Menbal have nothing at all to do with the quarrel that took place in Manshiet Menbal. They were attacked just because they are Christians," AINA reported Ramzy said.

Two Muslims were arrested from Menbal, and there is talk of an upcoming "reconciliation" meeting.

Now security are looking for Christians to arrest them as a bargaining chip for this "reconciliation" meeting, AINA reported Ramzy said.

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