Attacks on Copts in Egypt
- Again, let us remember our Jacobite brothers in Egypt (who don't
have the luxury of fighting among themselves). The enemy is the one
who attacks God's Church. Let us remember all parties in our
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AP) -- A man fatally stabbed an elderly Coptic
Christian and wounded at least five other worshippers outside
churches Friday, provoking about 600 Christians to demonstrate
against what they saw as government indifference.
The Interior Ministry said the assailant, Mahmoud Salah-Eddin Abdel-
Raziq, was "psychologically disturbed," but the protesters blamed
the government of President Hosni Mubarak for what they called a
sectarian attack on Christians, who number about 10 percent of
Egypt's 72 million people.
"If the people who were responsible for el-Kusheh and Moharrem Bek
had been held to account, this would not have happened," said Munir
Naguib as he stood next to the hospital bed of his friend Michael
Pissada, 22, who was recovering from wounds to his arm.
He was referring to Muslim-Coptic clashes that killed 22 people in
southern Egypt in 1998 and four people in Alexandria last year.
While the el-Kusheh case did go to court, many Copts scoffed at the
sentences as far too light, and nobody has stood trial for the
Numerous worshippers said there was only one police guard outside
the three churches where the assailant struck on Friday morning in
this Mediterranean port, which is Egypt's second largest city.
In a rare move, the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition
party, endorsed the Christian protests, accusing the Interior
Ministry of failing to protect churches adequately.
"The Interior Ministry's resources are stretched thin because it is
preoccupied with chasing the Muslim Brotherhood," said senior
Brotherhood official Saber Abou el-Fotooh, who spoke to church
officials at the scene of one attack.
The police detained five Brotherhood members in the Cairo area
Friday, but gave no reason.
There were conflicting reports over the number of assailants and the
number of wounded in the attacks.
The Interior Ministry said: "This morning a citizen attacked three
worshippers inside the Mar Girgis Church in al-Hadhra with a knife
and then fled and went into the Saints Church, where he attacked
three other worshippers and again fled.
"While he was trying to enter another Mar Girgis church, he was
stopped and arrested by police," the ministry said, adding that one
of the wounded died later.
Police said three men were arrested after simultaneous attacks at
three churches. A bid to attack a fourth church was foiled by the
police. One victim died and 16 others were wounded, said the police
officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not
authorized to speak to the press.
The discrepancies could not be immediately explained. However, the
government has often played down incidents that could be perceived
as sectarian so as not to inflame tensions between the Coptic
minority and Muslim majority.
The semi-official Middle East News Agency identified the person who
died as Nushi Atta Girgis, 78.
The ministry said the assailant Abdel-Raziq works in a sweets
shop. "He suffers from psychological disturbances," the statement
In the protest by some 600 Copts outside Saints Church later Friday,
the demonstrators held banners reading: "Until when?" and "Stop the
persecution of Copts in Egypt."
The protesters chanted: "Hosni Mubarak, where are you?"
Blood could be seen on the church steps.
The attack came on what is Good Friday for many of the world's
Christians. But the Copts celebrate Easter a week later.
"We are trying to calm the situation after many of our youth started
protesting," said Father Augustinos of the Mar Girgis church. "We
want to live in peace and tranquility, but these are people who had
their family members killed or wounded. We are doing our best."
An official of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, Abdullah Osman,
said party officials and legislators had gone to the churches
concerned "to explain that the attackers are insane and that the
people should not blow things out of proportion."
Witness: Youth held two machetes
A second victim, Kuzman Tawfiq, 69, said he had finished praying in
Saints Church and gone outside.
"Suddenly there was a youth holding two machetes and shouting: 'Oh,
the prophet of God! Oh, the prophet of God,'" he recalled, speaking
while suffering the aftereffects of anesthesia.
The assailant slashed Tawfiq in the stomach, forcing him to have
surgery to stop the internal bleeding.
Asked who the assailant was, Tawfiq replied: "He was supported by
the Islamic groups, for sure."
A doctor, 26, who saw the assailant attack three people outside
Saints Church said the police sentry did not want to intervene.
"I asked the soldier guarding the church to fire on the assailant to
stop him. The soldier said: 'There is no reason to open fire. I
don't have orders to open fire,'" the doctor recalled, speaking on
condition of anonymity.
Egyptian Christians generally live in peace with the Muslim
majority, but occasional sectarian clashes do occur.
In October, Muslim militants attacked churches in the Moharrem Bek
area of Alexandria protesting the distribution of the DVD that they
deemed offensive to Islam. Four people were killed in weeklong riots.
Christians complain that they suffer job discrimination,
particularly in the high ranks of the civil service where positions
such as general, provincial governor and faculty head are almost
invariably held by Muslims.