05/27/2016, 16.04
EGYPT
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Extremist attack on Coptic woman in Minya due to pretext, sparks outrage, says Fr Rafic

For the spokesman of the Catholic Church, the attack in Karma was sparked by hearsay. A 70-year-old woman was paraded naked. Seven homes were torched and stores looted as mob chanted “Allahu Akbar”. Terrorist groups are active in the area. Christians and Muslims slam the sad and painful incident.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – An elderly Christian woman was attacked, stripped and paraded naked on the streets of Karma, a village in Minya Governatorate, central Egypt. This is result of hearsay “used as a pretext to attack the local Christian community” in “an area full of Jihadis and Muslim extremists,” Egyptian Catholic Church spokesman Fr Rafic Greiche told AsiaNews.

Full of contradictions, the story is front-page news in Egypt. Many Egyptians, Christians as well as Muslims, have reacted with “sadness and sorrow. No one is happy about it.”

The incident occurred on 20 May when a group of local Muslims attacked a 70-year-old woman after rumours spread that her son had had an affair with a Muslim woman. After stripping, the mob paraded her naked around the village.

During all this, they shouted “Allahu Akbar”, God is great, and “we must drive the infidels out”. They also looted some stores and torched the homes of seven Christian families. Some were armed guns, and fired in the air.

Since then, police have made a number of arrests, taking into custody at least six suspects and looking for 12 more.

Questioned on the matter, Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II appealed for calm, urging the Coptic community to "show restraint and wisdom" to "preserve social peace."

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El Sissi strongly condemned the attack. Calling for exemplary punishment of those responsible, he gave the military a month's time to rebuild the destroyed property at no cost to the owners.

The incident has hit Egyptians, Christians and Muslims, hard, provoking broad condemnation, said Fr Rafic Greiche.

“It’s all hearsay,” he explained. “The story about an affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman is not true,” he added. ‘It is a pretext used by extremists to attack. They burnt homes and stripped the woman (who downplayed the thing to police) and drove her around the village in a car.”

Egypt’s president called for action by military courts, but what “we need is greater security.” Various “terrorists and extremist groups” operate in the region “in the deserts and the mountains”, and “Inaction or complicity by local police is an added factor”.

Police had been warned by local Christians that something was going to happen, but they intervened “more than two hours after the incident, making things worse,” Fr Greiche said.

“If anything good has come out of it, it is that Egyptians strongly condemned the sad and painful incident,” he added.

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