For the second time, Egyptian armed forces stormed the old 5th century St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110 kilometers from Cairo.
According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih of the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), live ammunition was fired, wounding two monks and six Coptic monastery workers. Several sources confirmed the army’s use of RPG ammunition. Four people have been arrested, including three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was at the monastery investigating the army attack.
AINA reported that Monk Aksios Ava Bishoy told activist Nader Shoukry of Freecopts the armed forces stormed the main entrance gate to the monastery in the morning. The forces used five tanks, armored vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish the fence built by the monastery last month to protect themselves and the monastery from the lawlessness which prevailed in Egypt during the Jan. 25 uprising.
“When we tried to address them, the army fired live bullets, wounding Father Feltaows in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen,” said Monk Ava Bishoy. “Six Coptic workers in the monastery were also injured, some with serious injuries to the chest.”
The injured were rushed to the nearby Sadat Hospital, and the ones in serious condition were transferred to the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo.
Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy said the army fired live ammunition and RPGs continuously for 30 minutes, which hit part of the ancient fence inside the monastery.
“The army was shocked to see the monks standing there praying ‘Lord have mercy’ without running away. This is what really upset them,” AINA reported he said. “As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting, ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Victory, Victory.’”
He added that the army prevented the monastery’s car from taking the injured to hospital.
AINA said the army also attacked the Monastery of St. Makarios of Alexandria in Wady el-Rayan, Fayoum, 100 km from Cairo. It stormed the monastery and fired live ammunition on the monks. Father Mina said that one monk was shot, and more than ten have injuries caused by being beaten with batons.
The army demolished the newly erected fence, one room from the actual monastery and confiscated building materials.
On Feb. 21, AINA reported, the army had given an ultimatum to the monastery that if the fence was not demolished within 48 hours by the monks, the army would remove it themselves.
AINA said the Egyptian Armed Forces issued a statement on their Facebook page denying that any attack took place on St. Bishoy Monastery in Wady el-Natroun. It read in part, “Reflecting our belief in the freedom and chastity of places of worship of all Egyptians.”
The statement went on to say that the army just demolished some fences built on State property, and that it has no intention of demolishing the monastery itself.
Father Hedra Ava Bishoy said they are in possession of a whole carton of empty bullet shells, in addition to the people in hospital to prove otherwise.
AINA said the army attack came after the monks built a fence for their protection after the police guards left their posts and fled during the Jan. 25 uprising. The fence, AINA said, was also for protection for the monks after being attacked by prisoners who had escaped during that period.
“We contacted state security and they said there was no police available for protection,” AINA reported Father Bemwa said. He added, “So we called the Egyptian TV dozens of times to appeal for help, and then we were put in touch with the military personnel who told us to protect ourselves until they reached us.”
AINA said he added that the monks have built a low fence on the borders of one side of the monastery which is vulnerable to attacks, on land which belongs to the monastery, with the monks and monastery workers keeping watch over it round the clock.
AINA said the monks of St. Bishoy are now holding a peaceful protest in front of monastery in protest against the army’s abuse of using live bullets against civilians
According to AINA, nearly 7,000 Copts staged a peaceful rally in front of the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, where Pope Shenouda III was giving his weekly lecture. After that they marched towards Tahrir Square to protest the armed forces’ attacks on Coptic monasteries.