03/05/2011, 00.00
EGYPT

Muslims attack Coptic community, a priest and three deacons missing

The attack occurred last night in Soul, a town some 30 kilometres south of the Egyptian capital. Twelve thousand Christians are placed under curfew, waiting for soldiers held back by fear. The violence was sparked by a relationship between a Coptic man and a Muslim woman.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A priest and three deacons are missing following an attack last night by about 4,000 Muslims in the town of Soul (30 kilometres south of Cairo) against the local Coptic community. The mob attacked Christian homes and set fire to the Saints Mina and George Coptic Church, ostensibly because of a relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.

Witnesses report the mob prevented the fire brigade from entering the village. Father Yosha, the priest of the small parish, and three deacons have been reported missing with different accounts of their fate. Some believe they died in the fire that devastated the church building. Others say they are still held by Muslims in one of the parish buildings.

When the Muslim mob attacked the church, they exploded five or six gas cylinders inside the church, desecrated the cross and pulled down the domes.

Soldiers stationed in the village of Bromil, seven kilometres from Soul, initially refused to go into Soul. When the army finally sent troops to the village, Muslim elders sent them away, saying that everything was "in order now." A curfew was imposed on the 12,000 Christians of the town.

The incident was sparked by the involvement of a Coptic man, Ashraf Iskander, with a Muslim woman. The father of the Muslim woman was killed by his cousin because he did not kill his daughter to preserve the family's honour. This in turn led the woman's brother to avenge the death of their father by killing the cousin. Muslims then blamed the murders on Christians.

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