(AINA) — Muslims attacked Coptic Christian protesters at Maspero thrice on Saturday, killing one and injuring over 100. The first attack occurred near midnight when two bearded Muslims wearing Salafist attire attempted to enter the rally via an entrance that was not guarded by security but by the Christian youth who were checking all persons at the entrance. One or both of the Muslims opened fire with guns. One escaped and the other was apprehended by the Christian youth and subsequently handed over to the police. His identity papers showed that he was called Ramadan Abdallah, graduate of al-Azhar high school.
At the same time another Muslim group was attacking the protesters from the bridge overlooking the site where the sit-in is staged. According to eyewitness Emad Abdelmalak from Assuit, who was also injured, a minibus stopped at the bridge overlooking the sit-in site, a dozen men came out of it carrying Molotov cocktails and stones. He said the Salafis were very organized, they came in minibus, attacked and disappeared.
Five Christians were shot, one seriously in the eye, in these two attacks, said Father Mettias Nasr, one of the Rally organizers, to Al Ahram newspaper.
The third attack occurred at nearly 1 AM when the Muslims of Boulak, a poor area near Maspero, came with guns and Molotov cocktails. They surrounded the Christians on all sides and fired guns and threw Molotov cocktails at them. Scores of Christians were severely injured and taken away to the Coptic Hospital. A boat in the Nile belonging to the TV authorities was completely torched.
(video changes to English after 20 seconds)
Hannan, a Copt who was working at the rally canteen, told Coptic activist Mariam Ragy “We were shocked when we heard shots, and Molotov cocktails, empty bottles and stones were hurled at the crowds.”
Samuel Sobhy, one of the rally organizers, said he was attacked by a man with a knife, who injured his leg and hand. The Muslim attacker was caught and turned over to the police. Sobhy said that Muslims came to disrupt the protest, but as soon as Copts heard of the attacks, they started to flock to Maspero .
Fearing that protesters may be killed, Father Filopateer Gameel read the absolution of sins for all Christians present.
Father Botros from Moqattam Church called Way TV, a US based television network, saying the same thing happened during the Muslim attack on them. “These are not thugs, they are criminals hired by Security authorities and the army to break up the Coptic sit-in. The army and the security should be held accountable. We have rights and we will take them.” He said that his church as well as other churches will go to Maspero tomorrow after mass to join in the protest.
Father Filopateer Gameel said that he had received a threat last night from a number of Muslims that they will attack the protesters and subsequently informed the security authorities, who told him they could not do anything and he should call the army. He held the Interior Minister el-Essawy responsible for what happened and for failing to perform his duty. He said the minister said on TV that this sit-in has to end by any means, and therefore, he gave the “green light” to the Muslims to carry out their threat.
The Copts have held an open-ended sit-in in Maspero, in front of the State TV building, since May 7, demanding the release of seventeen Christians unjustly detained and sentenced by a military court for 3-years on March 16, as well as over 400 others detained unjustly. They are also demanding the Muslim perpetrators who torched the church in
Copts have called for a million-man rally on Sunday, May 15.
By Mary Abdelmassih