US Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey paid a visit to Coptic Pope Shenouda III Tuesday to congratulate him on the occasion of Coptic Christmas on 7 January, during which she had been out of the country.
According to a source at the papal office, Scobey and Shenouda also discussed the 7 January shooting incident in the Upper Egyptian city of Naga Hammadi, in which six Coptic Christians and one Muslim were killed.
In a related development, a report issued recently by a fact-finding committee–dispatched to Naga Hammadi by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based NGO–found that church authorities had issued warnings to local Copts of a possible assault on the day of the shooting. It was for this reason, the report noted, that local churches had wrapped up Christmas masses before midnight.
The report also blamed police for failing to bolster security around local churches despite the prevailing tension between Muslim and Coptic residents of the province.
The report went on to criticize the manner in which police had dealt with the incident, noting that more than 90 local residents–both Muslims and Christians–had been arrested at random in the days immediately following the assault. The report also alleged that some detainees had been tortured by police and that the media had been barred from covering events as they unfolded.
According to another report released by the Cairo-based Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, a total of seven Copts had been killed and nine injured in the shooting, confirming the sectarian nature of the incident. The report went on to state that the affair had served to confirm the government’s inability to enforce the law and guarantee social cohesion.
Meanwhile, the Coptic International Council–comprised of 100 Coptic organizations worldwide–issued its own report condemning the assault and offering recommendations for resolving the problems faced by Egypt’s Coptic minority. The report criticized Naga Hammadi’s Coptic Bishop Kirolos for offering conflicting statements in the wake of the incident, suggesting that he had been subject to pressure by the government.
The council went on to call for the immediate release of all Copts detained in the wake of the shootings. It also requested that the governor of Qena, along with ranking security officers based in Naga Hammadi, be investigated for their respective roles in the incident.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.