Cairo (AsiaNews) - Four people are dead and 18 wounded following an attack against the Virgin Mary Coptic Church yesterday afternoon during wedding celebrations in the Cairo neighbourhood of Warraq. An 8-year-old girl is among the killed. This is the first deliberate attack on a church in the capital since 3 July, the day when Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was ousted.
"Two men on a motorcycle approached the building entrance and one of them opened fire with a machine gun aiming at the crowd standing in front of the churchyard waiting to welcome the two newly-wed," Fr Rafik Greiche, a spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, told AsiaNews.
The clergyman stressed that the death toll could rise in the coming hours. "The attackers, he said, "fired from a few metres away. All the people who were injured are in serious condition."
At present, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicions run towards terrorist groups close to the more violent wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A few minutes before the shooting, some Islamist leaders, jailed a few months ago for incitement to violence, posted messages on Twitter threating such attacks.
Since July, Islamists have organised demonstrations and protests every week, in Cairo and other cities, that often turned violent, Fr Greiche said. "Christians," he added," have been the main target of such religious hatred-filled actions."
After President Morsi's ouster and the establishment of a transitional government by General al-Sisi, the Christian minority has been continuously attacked by Islamist groups and other groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The worst cases occurred between on 14-17 August, when thousands of Islamic extremists carried out simultaneous attacks across the country, storming 58 churches and more than 200 buildings owned by Christians.
In the following months, groups of Salafists and members of the Jamaa al-Islamiya were holed up in a number of villages in Upper Egypt, where they imposed Sharia.
Delga is one example. The town, which is Minya province (Upper Egypt), remained the hands of Islamic extremists for over two weeks.
During that time, Islamists seized dozens of homes from local Copts, forcing 5,000 of them to flee. Only when the army moved in were they were able to return. (S.C.)