Was it sectarian hatred or a policeman’s random meltdown? The answer is not clear, though many press accounts are rushing to judgment. One thing that seems clear is that people who have firearms should be checked for mental stability!
A stray Egyptian policeman on a train in Upper Egypt opened fire at a party of Coptic Christians Tuesday, killing 1 and wounding 5.
According to the MENA news service,
‘ Minya Governor Ahmad Dia-al-Din asserted on Tuesday (11 January) that there are no sectarian motives behind the shooting spree … “He (the shooter) took the train and randomly opened fire…There are no indications of sectarian reasons,” he told Nile News. “He did not know any of passengers and he was not familiar to the passengers as well.” ‘
The Coptic Christians, in contrast, felt singled out, though it is true that it would not be easy to tell Copts from Muslims in Egypt. Some reports said he went by tattoos of crosses on their wrists in identifying them as Christians. This Arabic report says he went by the lack of a head covering on the girls. That there is more than one story about how he allegedly discerned his target raises questions about whether that is what he did at all.
There are a lot of Coptic Christians in Upper Egypt, and any random shooting event there would likely hit members of that community.
In the aftermath, a crowd of angry Copts gathered to demonstrate before the police station in the small town of Samalut, and were dispersed by tear gas.
The further killing took place as Egypt withdrew its ambassador from the Vatican to protest what Cairo sees as undue interference in its domestic affairs by Pope Benedict.
On January 7, the Coptic date for observing Christmas, many Egyptian Muslims had offered themselves as human shields outside churches, to forestall more bombings like the one on New Year’s Day.
President Hosni Mubarak has affirmed that any attack on Coptic Christians is an attack on all Egyptians.