Child kidnapped in front of Shubra church

Unknown kidnappers on Sunday abducted a Coptic Christian child following an armed attack on a church in Shubra al-Kheima, Qalyubiya, local news reports said.

Four masked armed men kidnapped Abanoub Ashraf, 12, from in front of the Father Paula Church in Shubra al-Kheima while firing shots to scare away the residents, said eyewitnesses, who added that the kidnappers drove off in a dark gray car.

In statements to the state-run Al-Ahram news portal, Father Paula, the Church pastor, described the abduction as a dangerous precedent that warns of worse incidents to come. He added that even if the child were abducted for ransom, the incident would still have a sectarian dimension that he described as dangerous.

Paula said shots were fired in the direction of the church after the Sunday Holy Mass, adding that the random shots fired did not cause any damage or injuries.

Paula said that in a quick response he closed the church doors and prevented the church visitors from getting out until the firing was over, adding that there were many visitors since the incident coincided with the Sunday Holy Mass.

Since the breakout of the January 2011 uprising, Egypt has witnessed several sectarian clashes that erupted over the construction of churches and the alleged conversion of adherents to Islam or Christianity. 

Copts are estimated to account for roughly 10 percent of the Egyptian population but there are no accurate official statistics of their number.

Meanwhile, security authorities in Qalyubiya are intensifying efforts to uncover the mystery surrounding the abduction of the child, whose father was found to be a businessman.

According to investigations, the kidnappers phoned the child's father and asked for a ransom of LE2 million.

A senior security source said the child's father refused to use the help of the police after receiving threats from the kidnappers that they would kill the child if the police intervened.

The same security source claimed the incident is of a criminal, rather than a sectarian nature, and added that it is not linked to any previous clashes between Muslims and Copts in the area.


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