Egypt hunts for killers in church wedding attack

October 21, 2013 12:26 pm
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Egyptians gather around bloodstains at the entrance of the Virgin Mary Coptic Christian church in Cairo after gunmen on a motorbike shot dead three people late on October 20, 2013/AFP
Egyptians gather around bloodstains at the entrance of the Virgin Mary Coptic Christian church in Cairo after gunmen on a motorbike shot dead three people late on October 20, 2013/AFP

, CAIRO, Oct 21 – Police were hunting Monday for attackers who killed four Copts in a shooting spree at a church wedding, in the first assault targeting Christians in Cairo since the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president.

An eight year old girl was among those shot dead at the Church of the Virgin in Cairo’s working class neighbourhood of Al-Warrak, while 17 others were wounded in the late Sunday attack, officials said.

Witnesses recounted how celebrations quickly turned to horror as the attackers sped towards the wedding party on a motorbike, sprayed the crowd with bullets and fled.

“It’s unfair. This isn’t acceptable in any religion,” cried Layla Ezzat, one of many who returned to the scene of the attack to grieve.

One worshipper Ayman Moussa told AFP there had been no security at the church since June, despite several attacks against Copts around the country in the wake of president Mohamed Morsi’s July 3 ouster by the army.

The community was left reeling by the attack.

“We as Copts are paying the price of Morsi’s ouster. We are targeted. We no longer feel safe anywhere,” said Iman Girguis, 40.

The interior ministry listed two attackers but some witnesses spoke of three.

“Three masked men on a motorbike approached us. Two opened fire on us and then everything turned to blood and chaos,” said Moawad Wagih, 40, speaking outside the morgue where the bodies had been taken.

Ahmed al-Ansari, the head of ambulance services, said four people were killed and 17 were wounded, updating an earlier toll. A morgue official said those killed were all Copts.

Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi condemned the attack in a cabinet statement, calling it a “despicable criminal act,” and said security forces were searching for the assailants.

“Such terrible acts will not succeed in dividing Muslims and Christians,” he said.

Beblawi said police were investigating the circumstances of the attack and that he had asked authorities to provide emergency medical services to the wounded.

Copts under attack since Morsi ouster

Egyptian Christians, the majority of whom are Copts, have been targeted since Morsi was swept out of power by the army amid mass protests against his year long rule, and in particular since an August 14 crackdown by security forces on two Cairo camps of Morsi supporters.

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