Egypt reacts to ‘villainous’ church wedding shooting

Egyptian religious figures and politicians were quick to condemn an armed attack on a wedding ceremony at the Virgin Mary Church in Warraq on Sunday, after it left four dead and at least 18 others injured.

Gunmen on a motorcycle fired on Egyptian wedding guests outside a Coptic Christian church in the Cairo suburb on Sunday night, security sources told Reuters.

The masked assailants shot randomly at the people as they left the church, the sources added. It was not immediately clear if those killed were Christians, they said.

State news agency MENA reported that one of the dead was an eight-year-old child. By Monday noon, officials confirmed a 12-year-old girl was among the dead, raising the casualty toll to four.

Authorities are looking for those responsible.

Father Bishoy Lotfy, Virgin Mary Church pastor, meanwhile claimed the assailants came from outside Warraq, adding that Muslims and Christians in the neighbourhood are on good terms.

In a phone conversations with CBC satellite channel on Sunday, Lotfy said that one woman received a shot to the head and the young men who were present at the church said they transported 10 victims to hospital.

Asked about the response of churchgoers at the wedding, he said: "They feel sad and angry. The young people are wondering why this is happening to them, why anyone would want to turn a wedding ceremony sad and target innocent people.”

Lotfy added that any place could be the target of a terror attack.

A team of investigators meanwhile headed to the site of the attack. Police cordoned off the area and dozens of armored vehicles and special forces troops surrounded the church in the aftermath of the attack.

Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam on Monday condemned the attack on the church and issued a statement claiming "assaults on churches that include demolition, bombing, or killing their vistors or intimidating them is prohibited in the tolerant Islamic Sharia."

"Prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him, considered such acts an attack on God and his Prophet and said that he is the enemy of those who carry out such acts on the day of judgement.”

He called for Egyptian Muslims and Christians to unite against sectarianism in Egypt.

He expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and wished the wounded a speedy recovery.

Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy on Monday condemned the attack on the church, describing it as a "despicable criminal act."

He added that security forces are working to uncover the identities of the perpetrators.

"Such heinous acts will not successfully segregate the two elements of the nation, the Muslims and Christians, and the government will be very firm in the face of all those desperate attempts to sow the seeds of sectarianism."

Jama'a al-Islamiya and its political arm, the Construction and Development Party, also denounced the attack on the church.

Abdalla al-Nasser, secretary general of the Union of Sufis in Egypt, described the attack as a "terrorist operation and a cowardly assault on unarmed people," calling for bringing the assailants to trial.

Egypt's Salafi-oriented Nour Party condemned the "criminal"  attack.

Sherif Taha, Nour spokesperson, said the party condemned incidents that threatened the entire nation, but called for time to give investigators to complete their work before fingers were pointed and accusations made.

Tamarod founder Mahmoud Badr also condemned the attack on his Facebook page, saying: "The Egyptian Church is an emblem of patriotism….try the killers…no reconciliation with terrorism."

Amr Darrag, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, on Sunday called for uncovering the identities of the assailants. On Twitter he said: "Even though we do not have any details yet,  I strongly condemn the attack on the church."

The liberal Dostour Party on Monday described the attack on the church as "villainous."

The party published a statement on its official Facebook page: "The enemies of Egypt and of life are stabbing Egypt in the heart yet again. [The Virgin] Mariam's blood was spilled to water Egypt's fledgling freedom."

"The Virgin Mary Church is making a fresh contribution to Egypt's epic that would rid it off those hatemongers, enemies of Egyptians and instigators of sectarianism."

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