-- After the death of two Muslims on April 18 sectarian violence broke
out in the southern Egyptian town of Abu Qurqas El Balad, in Minya
Governorate, 260 KM south of Cairo. One Christian Copt was killed, an
old woman was thrown out of her second floor balcony and ten Copts were
hospitalized. Coptic homes, shops, businesses, fields and livestock were
plundered and torched.
Christians lived in terror, anticipating a
blood bath on Friday, April 22 because Muslims as announced their
intention to avenge the death of the two Muslims. Rumors spread
throughout Abu Qurqas of many strangers and of trucks loaded with
weapons coming into the village to carry out the threats during the
Easter week. The terrorized Christian villagers sent pleas everywhere,
asking for protection, even to Coptic groups in Europe and the U.S.
threw my old mother out of the second floor balcony and torched my
home," said Adel Abdulllah to Hazem Refaat of Free Copts advocacy. His
business and home were torched and his father and three brothers were
arrested on suspicion of killing the two Muslims.
Copt Eid Roshdy, was stabbed during the violence and later died in hospital.
to Bishop Makarious twenty Coptic families had their homes and
businesses looted by Muslims then torched, and their livestock was
stolen. "One shop was only 50 meters away from the police station," he
said. He also confirmed the story of the mother of Adel Abdullah who was
thrown out of the second floor balcony.
Curfew was imposed in the
village on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, from 7 PM until 6 AM to
control the violence but various sources reported that looting and
destruction of Coptic property continued after the curfew, even in the
presence of the army and police.
According to the villagers a
fight broke out on Monday, April 18 between the two Muslim families,
Abdel-Kader and el-Gazzar which resulted in the death of two Muslims.
Meanwhile an altercation took place in front of the villa of Coptic
attorney Alaa Reda Roushdy between a minibus driver and passengers and
the guards of the villa over a speed hump built in front of the
residence, which the driver claimed was damaging busses. People
congregated and the villa guards shot into the air to disperse the
crowd. The Copts were accused of killing the two Muslims.
Makarious of Minya and Abu Qurqas said the first version of the story
was the Muslims were killed during the fight between two Muslim
families, then the story changed to accuse the Copts.
a local villager told Al Karma TV the two Muslims were killed in the
Eastern side of village where the majority of the Muslims live. "Then
the story of the speed hump came and Muslims connected the two together
and accused the Christians of the killing. There is no proof the
Christians killed the Muslims." He added that relationship between
Muslims and Christians are usually good and believes whoever created
this story came from outside the village and incited the Muslims.
retaliation, Muslims attacked and looted two tourist coffee shops
belonging to attorney Roushdy. One coffee shop was turned into a mosque
called the "Martyrs" and the second one was destroyed.
during the funeral of the Muslims hundreds of Muslims from neighboring
villages joined and notes were distributed among them saying the
Christians were the culprit. After burying the dead the Muslim mob
shouted for revenge for their two "martyrs" and attacked Christian homes
while shouting "Allahu Akbar." (video
shows Muslims looting Coptic property before torching it while chanting
"Allahu Akbar." Army soldiers are seen passing through the looters).
Rofail of the Saints Church in Abu Qorqas said "It was terrible, the
people who were in the funeral left and started shooting in the air and
throwing Molotov cocktails at homes and fields belonging to Copts; some
homes were demolished. Anything belonging to Christians was destroyed."
to Coptic activist Nader Shoukry, fifteen Copts and eight Muslims have
been detained for the murder of the two Muslims. No one has been
detained for the attacks against the Copts. "None of the Muslims who
looted and destroyed Coptic property was questioned," said Bishop
Makarious. He added it was a miracle that the Copts were not harmed when
their homes were torched. "They had to jump over the roofs of the
neighboring houses to escape the flames. In one instance a wall had to
be broken between two houses to get the people out as they could not
escape otherwise." He criticized the police and the army for not
bringing the situation under control. "We expected more from the police
and army, but they were not impartial."
The new Governor of Minya
appeared on Egyptian Hayat TV and said the incidents in Abu Qurqas El
Balad was not sectarian but a fight over a speed hump which escalated,
and denied the loss of property.
Security forces prevented TV
stations from filming inside the village and Muslims also attempted to
prevent Christians from filming, but many video clips have been uploaded
to youtube (video showing Coptic homes after looting).
attorney Dr. Ihab Ramzy called on Copts who have had their property
damaged or lost to file a complaint with the police in order for him to
represents them for compensation. He said they had to name the
assailants in their report, but this may be not be possible because the
victims were threatened by Muslims not to mention their names.
Roushdy was arrested by the military two days ago and accused of
provoking riots which led to the death and injury of citizens. Today the
military ordered him to be detained for 15 days pending investigations.
By Mary Abdelmassih