Despite ongoing appeals by political and religious figures regarding the "sanctity of blood," sectarian violence has seen a sharp rise since June 30, a day of mass protest against the rule of former President Mohamed Morsi. Incidents are increasingly occurring throughout the nation’s governorates. News of Morsi’s forced removal last Wednesday was immediately met with clashes in Luxor where supporters of the ousted president pelted a church with stones.
In Port Said on early this morning, Tuesday, an unspecified number of masked gunmen opened fire on the newly inaugurated Mary Mina church, according to various reports. There is conflicting information regarding casualties, with Al-Shorouk claiming there were none while multiple social media sites report one person was injured and taken into emergency treatment at the nearby Afamina Hospital. Military and police forces arrived on the scene shortly after the incident took place, eyewitnesses claim. Ahram Online reports that one of the assailants has since been apprehended.
Earlier in the week, the Luxor village of Nagaa Hassan was the scene of similar violence when, on Friday, a Muslim man was reportedly murdered by four Christians following a dispute over “the isolation” of former Morsi according to Al-Ahram. The paper reports that the murder of forty-eight-year-old Hassan Sidky Hefny led to village-wide sectarian clashes which resulted in “the destruction of approximately ten homes owned by Coptic Christians.” Social media sites, however, claim a subsequent dimension of violence to the incident, referred to as a “massacre of Copts,” in which thirty-four Coptic homes were burned down and looted, a further 275 evacuated, and four Coptic Christians were “slaughtered and their bodies paraded.” There are also reports on social media of a fifth Coptic Christian being thrown into a river with a rock tied around his neck, with no further information provided. The reports on claim this retaliatory wave of violence took place in the presence of the police and Armed Forces.
Speaking to Copts United, Moussa Nabil, priest at the nearby Mar Yohana Church, claims that twenty homes were razed in the incident during which Copts found themselves under attack by assailants wielding knives, sticks and automatic rifles. Nabil claims he called the security forces at that point and was told they would arrive as soon as they had sufficient backup. Upon their arrival, security forces managed to contain the scene but only temporarily before “events ignited again,” Nabil states, for a massacre that lasted “from 6 until 9 pm.”
Nabil also suggests to the website that villagers believe the body of the murdered Muslim which instigated the violence might have been intentionally left where it was found — outside the home of a Coptic neighbor.
The following day, thirty-nine-year-old priest Mina Aboud was shot dead by an unknown assailant while walking down the street in a southern neighborhood of Arish. He died on the way to hospital.
Spurred by the developments of the past week, it is worth noting that these incidents come after several months of steadily increasing sectarian tension. Last October, following multiple attacks on Coptic individuals, leaflets were distributed around the area’s Coptic-owned homes, advising inhabitants to leave.
[This article was originally published on Mada Masr.]