Man With Knife Attacks Egypt Worshippers
By WILLA THAYER , Associated Press 04.14.2006,
A man with a knife attacked worshippers at two Coptic churches in the northern Mediterranean city of Alexandria during Mass on Friday, killing one person and wounding five before he was arrested, the government said.
The Interior Ministry identified the attacker as Mahmoud Salah-Eddin Abdel-Raziq and said he suffered from "psychological disturbances." The attacks came on what is Good Friday to many of the world's Christians, although Egypt's Copts - and other followers of the Greek Orthodox church - mark the holiday a week later. Earlier, police officials said three men had been arrested in four simultaneous church assaults, one of them foiled by police. They said 17 people were wounded, and one later died.
There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancies between the reports. In the past, the government has tried to play down incidents that can be perceived as sectarian in nature so as not to inflame tensions between the Coptic minority and Muslim majority.
"This morning, a citizen attacked three worshippers inside the Mar Girgis Church in al-Hadhra with a knife and then fled and went into the Saints Church, where he attacked three other worshippers and again fled," the ministry statement said.
While he was trying to enter a third church, he was stopped and arrested by police, the statement said.
It said one of the worshippers died of his wounds. The semiofficial Middle East News Agency identified the victim as Nushi Atta Girgis, 78.
Abdel-Raziq "suffers from psychological disturbances," the Interior Ministry said.
About 600 angry Copts, mostly young men, gathered to protest the attacks in the Sidi Bishr neighborhood, outside Saints Church. The area was ringed by about 200 riot police, and truckloads more were nearby.
"Stop the persecution of Copts in Egypt," read one banner.
Coptic Christians, who account for about 10 percent of Egypt's 72 million people, complain of discrimination in getting jobs, particularly in senior levels of government. They generally live in harmony with the Muslim majority, although violence flares occasionally.
"Hosni Mubarak, where are you? State security is between us and you!" some chanted.
Nearby, bloodstains could be seen on the top step of the church.
Government and church officials were trying to restore calm.
"We are trying to calm the situation after many of our youth started protesting," said Father Augustinos, who heads the church where the attack was foiled. "We are telling them to calm down. It doesn't do any good for the country to make protests. We want to live in peace and tranquility but these are people who had their family members killed or wounded. We are doing our best." Abdullah Osman of the ruling National Democratic Party said party officials and legislators were also doing what they could to ease the situation. Coptic Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 72 million and generally live in harmony with the Muslim majority, though violence flares occasionally. Egypt's last sectarian clashes were in Alexandria in October, when Muslims attacked churches and shops over the distribution of a DVD of a play deemed offensive to their religion. Four people were killed in weeklong riots. Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
One killed, 5 wounded in Egypt church stabbings
Fri Apr 14, 2006 5:44 PM GMT
By Kheiry Hussein- CAIRO (Reuters) - A mentally ill Egyptian man killed a worshipper and wounded five others on Friday in knife attacks at two Coptic Christian churches in the coastal city of Alexandria, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Security and police officials said earlier three Egyptians working together had killed one person and wounded three others in separate attacks on three churches and another man had been apprehended before attacking worshippers in a fourth church.
"(He) was apprehended as he tried to enter (a third church)," the ministry said in the statement. "The aforementioned is called Mahmoud Abdul Razik Salah Eddin Hussein," it added.
The ministry said Hussein had wounded three people in St. George's Church and then wounded three others in Saints Church before being stopped trying to enter another church named after St. George.
"The attacks ... led to six being wounded, one of whom died from his wounds," the ministry said, adding that Hussein suffered from mental illness and the prosecutor was investigating the incident.
An Interior Ministry official said Hussein's mental illness was the cause of the attacks and there was no political motivation. The official added Hussein had insulted worshippers at the first church before later returning.
Copts account for up to 10 percent of Egypt's population of 73 million. They were the majority until several centuries after the Islamic conquest in the 7th century.
The governor of Alexandria told Egyptian state television by telephone that Hussein, a supermarket employee, carried out the attack holding two knives and walked from church to church.
Governor Abdul Salam Mahgoub said three of the people wounded in the attacks were in hospital but would leave later in the day.
A news broadcast showed three men with bandages around their faces lying in hospital beds and also showed groups of men in traditional clothes crowding around a building and one man sitting on the road crying.
Police officials said about 500 people gathered peacefully in and around Saints Church, where the 67-year-old worshipper died, chanting prayers and condemning the attack.
The Egyptian authorities have in the past blamed mental illness for attacks against European or Western tourists.
An Egyptian man stabbed and wounded two Hungarian tourists in Cairo in March 2005, saying he was exacting revenge for Western policies towards Iraqis and Palestinians. The prosecutor general ordered him to be placed in a psychiatric hospital.
Alexandria was the scene of violent protests in October over a church play demonstrators said was offensive to Islam. Three people died when the protesters clashed with police.
Relations between Muslims and Christians in Egypt are generally peaceful but there are occasional outbreaks of sectarian violence, notably in 1999 when 22 people were killed in the southern village of Kosheh.
© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.