‘Hiding from the bullets’ - Egypt Coptic monastery survivors describe bus attack
CAIRO: Survivors from an attack on a convoy of Coptic Christian pilgrims have told Arab News of the horrific moments when extremists opened fire killing seven.
The survivors included 7 year old Mina Basem who lost his mother Reham Milad Yusuf in the attack. His older brother Fadi is recovering from his injuries.
“We visited the monastery and spent a wonderful time but on our way back we were attacked by two cars who fired on us,” Mina said. “I don’t remember anything after that.”
A member of his family said Mina hid under the bus seats to avoid the bullets.
At the funeral for the victims on Saturday, Mina received condolences for the death of his mother from Bishop Makarios of Minya, and a large number of Egyptian officials who attended.
The attack took place as the buses approached the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor near Minya on Friday. Daesh admitted carrying out the attack, which also injured 21.
A previous attack at the same location killed 28 people in may 2017.
The Egyptian Interior Ministry said this week it had killed 19 people in an operation in the desert of Minya province who they said carried out attack.
Six of the victims in the bus attack came from the Yousef Shehata family, including the three brothers Kamal, Nadi and Reza, all aged over 50.
They agreed before the incident to gather their wives and children to participate in the Divine Liturgy at the monastery and then return to their homes in the 6th October area south of Minya. Little did they realize that the trip would be their last.
“Our family has lost six of its sons,” said a family member, who preferred not to be named. “They were all my loved ones, and I do not want anything else from the world than the end to the terrorism that targets all Egyptians and Copts in particular.”
She said the operation that killed those involved has eased the wounds a little bit.
The road to the monastery, now known as the Martyrs Road, is 25 kilometers long. It starts from the western desert road of Assiut to the monastery, which is in the middle of an area of rugged mountains and sand dunes.
The road remains dangerous despite 30 million Egyptian pounds spent improving it.
Monk Paul Samueli, the monastery’s security chief, condemned blamed government officials and complex procedures that had slowed down “important projects that maintain the security and stability of citizens.”
He said a consulting office for the project had been moved to the site of the road more than a year ago, but the project to pave and light the road has been slow to get started.
An expert an author on Coptic affairs, Robier Al-Faris said the road was closed after the attack in May 2017, but it reopened a few months later because the route to the monastery is difficult for children and the elderly people to walk on.
The monastery has a long history of turmoil.
In February 1919, eight attackers managed to sneak into the monastery and severely beat all the monks inside and stole everything from curtains to clothes, according to a report by the“Masr” newspaper.
According to the article, the security forces arrested some of the accused after a few days of the incident.
The monastery was also targeted by the Berber tribes for centuries, Al-Faris said. He said the locatio in the desert and the small number of monks inside it makes it an easy target to attack, whether its by thieves or terrorists.