Four members of the same family, including girl cousins aged eight and 12, were killed and 19 others injured when a Coptic Christian wedding in the Egyptian capital Cairo was raked by gunfire.
The attackers were wearing masks as they sped on a motorbike past the Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in the northern working class suburb of al-Waraaq on Sunday night. Three wedding parties had gathered, with crowds and relatives of two of them still waiting on the street. Onlookers said the road had been blocked deliberately outside a nearby mosque allowing the attackers a clear run on a street normally packed with traffic. They let off a single but sustained volley of gunfire, killing two of their victims immediately. A third, Mariam Ashraf Seha, aged 8, died in hospital later that night, and the fourth, Mariam Nabeel, 12, yesterday (Monday).
Mariam Seha's mother, Malkyan, was critically injured with a bullet wound to her head, her father, Ashraf Masiha, said. "I heard the gunfire and found my wife and daughter on the ground mired in blood," he told a local reporter. "I used to take her to school every day. Her smile will never leave me, throughout my life." Funerals for all four were held on Monday afternoon at the church in front of a crowd of hundreds of Coptic mourners chanting "With our blood we will protect the cross".
The green plastic chair where one of the bride's relatives, Camelia Helmy, 56, had been sitting when she was hit stood by the door, showing a clear bullet hole and streaked with blood. "I was just getting ready to come to the church when my nephew called me to say they were shooting," Helmy's daughter, Magda Girgis, said. "He said his grandmother, my mother, had been killed." Another of Helmy's nephews, Sameer Fahmy, 40, was the fourth victim.
Islamist mobs have stormed and burned churches in a number of areas of Egypt in retaliation for the backing by the Coptic Orthodox church of the removal by the army of the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi, in July, even though it was also supported by the leading Sunni Muslim authority, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar University.