Church prays for martyred Coptic pilgrims; security authorities declare death of 19 Islamist terrorists

04-11-2018 11:48 PM

Rimon al-Rawy Nevine Gadallah

The Coptic Church in Minya today held the Third Day prayers for the seven Copts who lost their lives on Friday 2 November in a terror shooting. The Third Day service is a Coptic tradition reminiscent of the Resurrection. It is held at the home of the deceased to comfort the grieving family. Today’s service, however, was a collective one for all seven victims, and was held at the church of al-Amir Tadros in Minya. Anba Macarius, Bishop-General of Minya, presided over the service. Huge numbers of mourners queued to offer condolences to the bereaved families; the funeral and condolence ceremonies of yesterday had seen the participation of thousands of mourners.

Yesterday, 3 November, saw the funeral service for the victims, considered martyrs of faith, at Minya’s church of al-Amir Tadros. Anba Macarius was joined by more than ten bishops in officiating the funeral. Attending was Minya Governor Qassem Hussein. The martyrs will be buried in their family tombs for the time being, Anba Macarius said, till a shrine is prepared for them in Minya.

In today’s service, Anba Macarius told the congregation: “You expressed your anger yesterday when I thanked Minya’s officials. You should know that they had stayed up all night and made considerable efforts to speed and facilitate all the procedures required till the martyrs’ bodies could be here for the funeral, also to respond to our every need. For this we have to be grateful. But we have demands which we voiced since the similar terror attack of May 2017, and which if fulfilled might have averted this incident. We demand that the road to the monastery be paved and that it be provided with communications facilities and cameras, also that more police checkpoints should be stationed there.”

Pope Tawadros had the day before issued a televised statement in which he said: We are deeply pained at the loss of our children who fell victim to the terror incident on the road to the monastery of St Samuel’s in Minya, leaving [seven] martyrs and [seven] injured.” He said President Sisi had called him for condolences and asked him to relay them to the Coptic congregation. He thanked the President and the Health Minister for the efforts of the health authorities on the part of the injured. The Pope expressed his deep condolences to the bereaved families, and his prayers for recovery of the injured. “We trust in the Lord,” he said, “we submit ourselves to His hands. We trust His divine justice and care for us and our country. We pray for His comfort for all the bereaved families.”

Pope Tawadros delegated the bishops: Anba Danial, Bishop of Maadi and Secretary-General of the the Holy Synod; Anba Yulius, Bishop of Old Cairo Bishop-General of Old Cairo; and Anba Dumadius, Bishop of 6 October City and Ousseem to visit the injured in hospital.

The Copts who were martyred and injured on Friday 2 November had been among pilgrims visiting the Western Desert monastery of St Samuel the Confessor, some 220km southeast Cairo, in the Minya region. They were on three buses visiting the monastery that day: a bus from Sohag, some 400km south of Cairo, and a bus and microbus from Minya. As their visit came to an end in the afternoon, the pilgrims boarded their buses to head home. Survivors say they were attacked by masked men in military uniforms, in a four-wheel drive vehicle. As the men opened fire, two vehicles were able to escape with the passengers suffering injuries, but the Minya microbus was hounded by the terrorists. They shot the driver dead, killed seven passengers, and injured others. In all three buses, seven Copts were injured.

Daesh, also known as the Islamic State (IS), claimed responsibility for the attack, promising more to come.

The injured were moved to hospital, the more critical cases were moved to military hospitals by order of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. Health Minister Hala Zayed visited the injured in hospital, as did Ghada Wali, Minister of Social Solidarity who ordered that each of the bereaved families be given EGP100,000 and the injured EGP50,000. The victims, she said will be treated by the State as “martyrs”, meaning their families will be eligible to numerous benefits.

President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi condemned the terror shooting and called Pope Tawadros to offer condolences.

On his Twitter account, President Sisi mourned the dead, terming them martyrs, and wished the injured a speedy recovery. He promised retribution , writing that “we will go on fighting black terror; the culprits will be found and brought to justice. Such attacks shall not break the will of our nation to survive and rebuild.”

A similar shooting had occurred in May 2017 in the same spot, claiming 28 lives.

Watani’s coverage of the May 2017 attack:

Killed on identity

A security source told the media that the road leading to the monastery has been closed since May 2017 when a similar attack took place. The road is difficult to secure, the security source said, owing to its location in a rugged desert spot where there are no communication facilities. Hence the police closure of the road. The buses carrying the pilgrims used a side road to reach the monastery, the security source said.

A survivor, however, claimed the buses had taken the main road and were stopped by the police checkpoint. When several buses arrived to visit the monastery, the survivor said, they were allowed in with police escort.

Today, a statement from the Interior Ministry declared that the police had raided a hideout of IS terrorists, among them those that had executed the St Samuel Monastery operation, in the desert west of Minya. Clashes with the terrorists left 19 of them dead. Information about them and legal proceedings are being processed.

Watani International

4 November 2018

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