Egypt (AINA) -- At 17:00 hours on Friday a Muslim mob attacked a
Christian congregation during prayers in the church attached to the
services building of the Coptic Church in the Rifeyah area of the
Mediterranean seaport of Mersa Matrouh. The mob, estimated to be
between 2000-3000 of Bedouins and fanatical Muslim Salafis, hurled
stones at the building. Four priests, the deacons and 400 parishioners
were trapped inside the building.
Rev. Matta Zakarya told activist Wagih Yacoub of Katiba-Tibeyah, an
advocacy group, that after the mob hurled stones at the building, they
went inside and assaulted the people, mostly families. Neither the
security forces nor the fire brigades were sufficient. Only two fire
brigades were available. Witnesses said the number of security forces
was not enough to contain the Muslims, and tear gas was used against
The attack in casualties among the Copts and security forces, mostly
head injuries caused by hurled bricks. The injured were treated at
Matrouh Hospital. According to Rev. Matta, twenty-five persons were
seriously wounded, including women and children. Eighteen houses,
twenty-two shops and sixteen cars were destroyed and burnt down.
"Twenty-eight people have no homes and had to seek refuge in the
services building," said Rev. Matta.
Security forces enforcement from Alexandria arrived in the early hours
of Saturday, and escorted the 400 Copts held in the services building
to their homes.
The pretext used by the Muslims for this attack was the erection,
without permission, of a wall surrounding the plot of land acquired by
the Church adjacent to the services building. "The violence started
after the Muslim evening prayer," said Rev. Matta Zakaria to Coptic
News Bulletin, "when the Mosque's Imam, Shaikh Khamees, talked of the
need to fight the 'enemies', and said 'we don't want Christians to
live among us.'"
The mob moved on to other areas not protected by security, vandalizing
and torching Coptic homes, shops, businesses and cars in the streets
surrounding the services building. "They were chanting religious and
Jihadi slogans, during which they vandalized and burnt houses and
shops, amid the cries of the terrorized Copts," reported Nader Shukry
Copts whose relatives were held inside the services building, gathered
in front of the State Security in Matrouh to protest the attacks on
them and the delay in the arrival of the security forces to protect
Rev. Matta said that a meeting is to be held in the morning of March
13, between the Church, the State Security and the Muslim elders in
the area, "Because the Copts are frightened, especially the women and
children who were indoors as the Muslims torched their homes and who
are now extremely traumatized. Everyone needs re-assurance that such
an attack will never happen again."
The services building, called Archangel Michael Charity, which serves
300 Coptic families, was demolished (AINA 4-30-2009) by security
forces on April 26, 2009, under the pretext of questioning the
ownership of land, but the matter was later clarified and a license
for the construction of a replacement services building was obtained
from the Governor of Matrouh.
By Mary Abdelmassih