7 killed in Egypt church shooting

7 killed in Egypt church shooting

Rami Rasmi (right), who was among the seven persons injured when three men in a car sprayed automatic gunfire into a crowd of churchgoers, is accompanied by his father at Nag Hamadi hospital in Qena province on Thursday. AP

Egypt’s interior ministry said the attack on Wednesday, just before midnight, was suspected as retaliation for the November rape of a Muslim girl by a Christian man in the same town. The statement said witnesses have identified the lead attacker.

The attack took place in the town of Nag Hamadi in Qena province, about 64 km from the famous ancient ruins of Luxor. A local security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that seven persons were dead and three seriously wounded.

Bishop Kirollos of the Nag Hamadi Diocese said six male churchgoers and one security guard were killed. He said he had left St John’s church just minutes before the attack.
“A driving car swerved near me, so I took the back door. By the time I shook hands with someone at the gate, I heard the mayhem, lots of machine gun shots,” he said in a telephone interview.

The bishop said he was concerned about violence on the eve of Coptic Christmas, which falls on Thursday, because of previous threats following the rape of the 12-year-old girl in November. He got a message on his mobile phone saying: “It is your turn.”

“I did nothing with it. My faithful were also receiving threats in the streets, some shouting at them: ‘We will not let you have festivities,’” he said.

Because of the threats, he said he ended his Christmas Mass one hour early.
He said Muslim residents of Nag Hamadi and neighbouring villages rioted for five days in November and torched and damaged Christian properties in the area after the rape.
“I had expected something to happen on Christmas day,” he said. The bishop said police have now asked him to stay at home for fear of further violence. Qena is one of Egypt’s poorest and most conservative areas. Christians, mostly Coptic, account for about 10 per cent of Egypt’s predominantly Muslim population.

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