Muslims attacked Coptic Christian protesters at Maspero three times on Saturday, killing one and injuring over 100.
According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), the first attack occurred near midnight. At that point, two bearded Muslims wearing Salafist clothing attempted to enter the protest through an entrance not guarded by security, but by Christian youth who were checking everyone trying to enter.
AINA said one or both of the Muslims opened fire with guns. One escaped and the other was caught by the Christian young people and subsequently handed over to police. His identity papers said he is Ramadan Abdallah, a graduate of al-Azhar High School.
At the same time, AINA said, another Muslim group was attacking the protesters from the bridge overlooking the site where the protest was being held.
According to eyewitness Emad Abdelmalak from Assuit, who was also injured, a minibus stopped at the bridge overlooking the sit-in site. A dozen men came out, carrying Molotov cocktails and stones. Abdelmalak said the Salafis were very organized. They came, attacked and disappeared.
Five Christians were shot in these two attacks, one seriously in the eye, said Father Mettias Nasr, one of the rally organizers, to Al Ahram newspaper.
AINA said the third attack occurred close to 1 AM from the Muslims of Boulak, a poor area near Maspero. They surrounded the Christians on all sides, and fired guns and threw Molotov cocktails at them. Scores of Christians were severely injured and transported to the Coptic Hospital. A boat in the Nile belonging to TV news media was completely torched.
AINA said Hannan, a Copt who was working at the protest rally canteen, told Coptic activist Mariam Ragy, “We were shocked when we heard shots. Molotov cocktails, empty bottles and stones were hurled at the crowds.”
AINA said Samuel Sobhy, one of the rally organizers, said he was attacked by a man with a knife, who injured his leg and hand. The Muslim attacker was caught and turned over to the police. Sobhy said that Muslims came to disrupt the protest, but as soon as Copts heard of the attacks, they started to flock to Maspero.
Fearing that protesters may be killed, Father Filopateer Gameel read the absolution of sins for all Christians present.
AINA said Father Botros from Moqattam Church called Way TV, a US based television network, saying the same thing happened during the Muslim attack on them.
He said, “These are not thugs. They are criminals hired by security authorities and the army to break up the Coptic sit-in. The army and the security should be held accountable. We have rights and we will take them.”
He said that members of his church, as well as others, will go to Maspero Sunday after mass to join in the protest.
According to AINA, Gameel said he had received a threat from a number of Muslims that they would attack the protesters. He said he informed security authorities, who told him they could not do anything and he should call the army.
Gameel said he holds the Interior Minister el-Essawy responsible for what happened and for failing to perform his duty. He said the minister commented on TV that the ongoing protest has to end by any means, and as such he gave the “green light” to the Muslims to carry out their threat.
The Copts have held an open-ended sit-in/protest in Maspero, in front of the State TV building, since May 7. They are demanding the release of 17 Christians unjustly detained and sentenced by a military court for three years on March 16, as well as over 400 others imprisoned unjustly.
They are also demanding the Muslim perpetrators who torched the church in Soul, Moqattam, Abu Qorqas, Embaba and Alexandria on New Year’s Eve be brought to justice.
Copts have called for a million-man rally on Sunday May 15.