December 15, 2016
A Muslim mob armed with rifles, clubs and machetes burnt down shops and destroyed Christian homes in an attack just days before ISIS killed 25 people in the Cairo cathedral bombing.
Tensions between Muslims and the Coptic Christian community have escalated in recent days following the deadly attack on a chapel at St Mark's Orthodox Cathedral.
But just days before the bombing a mob went on the rampage in the village of Manshiet El-Naghamish in Sohag.
The village’s 2,000 Christians built a four-storey building to be used as a community centre and applied to the Egyptian authorities to build a church, angering members of the Muslim community.
Local sources say tensions worsened after the bishop of El-Balyana and Al-Koshe was asked to lead a prayer meeting sparking leaflets to be sent out rallying a mob to attack the Christians.
In a horrifying attack the mob assaulted Christians using gas canisters and rocks as they looted and burned properties and businesses.
The water and power supply was cut off as roadblocks stopped firefighters coming to help.
Samir Nashed, a Christian resident of El-Naghamish, told International Christian Concern: “On Friday following the Muslim prayers, a great deal of fanatic Muslim young men, some of them were carrying gas canisters and rocks while others came armed with automatic rifles, clubs, machetes and knives, they attacked Copts and Coptic-owned houses.
“The attackers cut off the road so that the fire trucks could not enter the village.
“They also cut off the water and power supply to the village.”
Some 18 Muslims were arrested by police following the attack which left four people injured.
William Stark, International Christian Concern’s regional manager, said: “We are shocked at the news of yet another attack against Christians incited by rumours of church construction.
“ICC mourns with the families who have lost their homes and businesses due to these hate crimes.
“This is the latest in a long string of similar attacks, and we are impatient to see proper justice serviced.
“The Egyptian government must do more to secure the lives and properties of all citizens, including Christians.”
The Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian church in Egypt and the Middle East's biggest Christian community.
Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of Egypt's 90million people, have long complained of discrimination under successive Egyptian leaders.
Christians struggle to legally build churches in Egypt, with new churches only allowed to be built by official presidential decree - and they are only issued once a year.
Regular attacks by Muslim neighbours, who burn down homes and churches in poor rural areas, usually in anger over an inter-faith romance or the construction of church are reported.
Relations between Muslims and Coptic Christians have reached boiling point this week as ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at Cairo's main Coptic cathedral on Sunday that killed at least 25 people and wounded 49.
The militant group said in a statement carried by its news agency Amaq that a suicide bomber whom it identified as Abu Abdallah al-Masri had detonated his explosive belt inside the church.
The attack prompted huge demonstrations and protests outside the cathedral with Egyptians calling for justice.