Al-Warraq church official says police absent during attack

Ahram Online, Tuesday 22 Oct 2013

Police supposed to be guarding Al-Warraq church were absent during Sunday's attack, church employee tells prosecutors

Egyptian security forces stand guard at the Al-Warraq Coptic Christian church
Egyptian security forces stand guard at the Al-Warraq Coptic Christian church late Sunday 20 Oct 2013, after a gunman on motorcycle opened fire, killing four and wounding dozens (Photo: AP)

The administrative head of the attacked Al-Adra church told prosecutors on Tuesday that police conscripts supposed to be guarding the church were not present during the assault, Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported.

On Sunday, four people were killed and 18 others wounded when two gunmen on a motorbike opened fire on a crowd of guests attending a wedding outside the church, located in Cairo's working class neighbourhood of Al-Warraq.

Since the popularly-backed military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, Egypt has witnessed a surge in sectarian attacks. Islamists, incensed by Morsi's ouster, have accused Christians of orchestrating what they call a coup against the country's first freely elected president.

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, the leader of Egypt's largest Christian denomination, backed Morsi's ouster, appearing on television alongside army chief Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and other political and religious figures when El-Sisi announced Morsi's removal.

The Maspero Youth Union, a coalition of Coptic activists, cancelled on Tuesday a protest it had called for a day earlier, fearing "infiltrators," Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported.

The group said it met with a government representative and has demanded the removal of interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim for failing to protect Christians. In an earlier statement, the union called for charges against the minister and local security officials for "failing to do their job and protect the church."

"The killing and threatening of Copts in front of the church is the responsibility of the cabinet and of Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi," read the statement issued on the group's Facebook page Monday.

The group also called for the implementation of a security plan to protect other churches from similar attacks.

In an online statement published on 22 August, Human Rights Watch said police and military have failed to intervene in the vast majority of the 42 Egyptian church attacks documented by the international human rights organisation.

"A priest in Malawi, a town in Minya governorate south of Minya city, told Human Rights Watch that he called emergency services and police multiple times while mobs burned his church, but no one came. Another Dalga resident said that on 16 August the governor promised to send armoured personnel carriers to protect Copts from ongoing violence, but that none came," the statement read.

Coptic Christians, who make up some 10 percent of Egypt's 84 million, have long complained of discrimination and periodic violence by extremists.

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