Samalut, Egypt (CNN) -- A policeman fatally shot a Christian man and wounded five other Christians Tuesday in an attack on a train in Egypt, officials said.
The incident occurred at about 5 p.m. when a man walked onto the train, which was stopped in the station at Samalut, about 200 kilometers south of Cairo, said Maryanne Nabil Thaki, 29, one of the victims.
She said she was seated with her sister, Maggie Nabil Thaki, 25, their 52-year-old mother, Sabah Sinot Suleiman, and Maggie's fiance, 26-year-old Ehab Ashraf Kamal. They were en route to Cairo to buy an engagement ring, Maggie Thaki said.
Seated near them was an older Christian couple, Maryanne Nabil Thaki said.
The gunman walked up and down the length of the train, then walked back to two groups of people who were seated near each other and were both Coptic Christians, she told a reporter at the Good Shepherd Hospital in Samalut, where she was being treated for gunshot wounds to the leg and the chest.
The man said in Arabic, "There is no God but God," and opened fire, she said.
The shooter fled the train, but was captured later, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said. The suspect, a deputy policeman, was identified as Amer Ashoor Abdel-Zaher Hassan. He boarded the train in Asiut and was en route to Bani Mazar, Menya province, where he works.
The older man, Fathi Saeed Ebaid, 71, of Cairo, was killed, a local security source told the state-run Egyptian news agency MENA. His wife, Emily Hannah Tedly, 61, was in critical condition, as was the mother of the two younger women, said Dr. Petra Kamal.
All five were to be flown to Cairo for further treatment, a hospital employee said.
In front of the hospital, about a dozen Copts demonstrated in support of the victims but were dispersed by police who fired a tear gas canister that broke through a fifth-floor hospital window, said hospital employee Mina Farouk.
The attack comes 10 days after a bombing killed 23 Coptic Christians outside the Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria, Egypt, an attack that unnerved Christians and led to increased security.
Relations between the Christian minority and Muslim majority within Egypt have been tense since that New Year's Day bombing.
Those troubles were evident last Friday -- the day Coptic Christians, who follow the Julian calendar, celebrate Christmas -- when police staged a large-scale security operation outside the same church.
In a show of solidarity, some Egyptian Muslims attended the Christmas services.
Still, protests have erupted almost nightly in many Christian areas of Egypt since the bombing.
Egyptian authorities have released a sketch of a man they think was the suicide bomber in the church attack. The Interior Ministry used forensic technology to re-create the face.
About 9 percent of Egypt's 80 million residents are Coptic Christians. They base their theology on the teachings of the Apostle Mark, who introduced Christianity to Egypt, according to St. Takla Church in Alexandria, the capital of Coptic Christianity.
The religion is known for its rift with other Christians in the fifth century over the definition of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
CNN's Ben Wedeman, Housam Ahmed and Amir Ahmed and Journalist Ian Lee contributed to this report.
A gunman boarded a train in Samalout (Southern Egypt) and opened fire on Tuesday, killing a Copt and wounding five others
A gunman boarded a train in Samalout, southern Egypt and opened fire on Tuesday, killing a Copt and wounding five others -- four women and a man, security officials told Ahram Online.
The gunman, who was in uniform and identified as policeman Amer Ashour Abdel-Zaher, entered one of the passenger carriages and started shooting with his police gun randomly before he was arrested in the train station. He is currently being interrogated.
No motive was immediately known for the shooting. Officials said the gunman boarded the Cairo-bound train number 979 at the town of Samalout in Egypt's central Minya province. He was heading to Beni Mazar town in Minya.
The victim was identified by security as Fathi Mosaad Ebeid, 71 years old. The injured are Emily Hanna, Sabah Senyod, Marianne Zaki, Maggie Labib and Nehad Ashraf.
Later, witnesses said hundreds of Copts rallied outside Salamut's Good Shepherd hospital, where the wounded had been taken, and clashed with police, who fired tear gas at them.
Cairo recalls ambassador to the Vatican after what it deems 'unacceptable interference' in foreign affairs
Pope Benedict XVI was tonight at the centre of a new diplomatic storm after Egypt recalled its ambassador to the Vatican in protest at the pontiff's call for Middle Eastern governments to do more to protect their Christian minorities.
Cairo's dramatic reaction came amid reports of a further attack in Egypt in which a Christian died. The interior ministry said an off-duty policeman boarded a train in southern Egypt and opened fire, killing a 71-year-old man and wounding five other Christians, including the dead man's wife. The attack raises fears of a new wave of rioting by Christians still mourning the deaths of at least 21 worshippers as they were leaving mass at a Coptic church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve.
In a statement, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said Cairo's ambassador had been called back for consultations "after the Vatican's new statements that touch on Egyptian affairs and which Egypt considers an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs".
In a speech to diplomats accredited to the Holy See on Monday, the pope said the Alexandria bombing, coming after a string of attacks in Iraq, showed "the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities".
Quoting from a message agreed by a synod of bishops last year that discussed the situation of Christians in the Middle East, the pope said they were loyal citizens who were entitled to "enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media". He also praised European countries who had asked for action by the European Union to protect Middle Eastern Christians.
The foreign ministry's protest was echoed by Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayyib, the imam of the Al-Azhar, the leading institute of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim world. He said: "Protection of Christians is an internal affair and should be carried out by the governments as [Christians] are their citizens like other citizens." He added: "We reiterate our rejection of foreign interference in the internal affairs of Arab and Islamic countries under whatever pretexts."
In Rome, a senior Vatican official, said Egypt's reaction was "the proof that the things said by the pope have hit the mark". Monsignor Jean-Louis Bruguès, stressed he was speaking in a personal capacity.
John Hooper in Rome guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 11 January 2011 20.34 GMT
Egypt has recalled its ambassador to the Vatican for consultation after Pope Benedict XVI urged the country to do more to protect its Christian minority.
In an address to ambassadors at the Vatican on Monday, the Pope cited recent attacks on Christians in Egypt and Iraq.
An Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman said the remarks were "unacceptable".
A bomb attack on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve killed 23 people.
"Egypt asked its ambassador in the Vatican to come to Cairo for consultation after the Vatican's new statements that touch on Egyptian affairs, and which Egypt considers an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs," foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement.
There was no immediate official response from the Vatican. However, a Vatican source told AFP news agency that the recall did not constitute "a break in diplomatic relations".
In his address on Monday, the Pope condemned anti-Christian attacks in Egypt and Iraq, saying they showed "the urgent need for governments of the region to adopt... effective measures for the protection of religious minorities".
He also called on Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy laws, which can carry a death sentence for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
It was not the first time the Pope had spoken out over the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East.
In his traditional Christmas Day message - the Urbi et Orbi - he called for political leaders in the region to show solidarity with Christians.
And a day after the attack on the Coptic church in Alexandria, he appealed for the "concrete and constant engagement of leaders of nations" in what he called a "difficult mission".
On Sunday in an address in St Peter's Square, Rome, the Pope voiced solidarity with Egypt's Copts, saying: "I salute the Coptic faithful present here to whom I renew my expression of closeness."
Egypt's Coptic Christian minority makes up between 7% and 14% of Egypt's 80 million people.
Pope Benedict XVI delivers his weekly Angelus blessing to the crowd gathered below in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican January 2, 2011
VATICAN CITY | Sun Jan 2, 2011 11:37am GMT
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Sunday condemned the bomb attack outside a church in Egypt on Saturday that killed at least 21 people, the latest in a string of attacks against Christians in the Middle East and Africa.
"This vile gesture of death, like that of putting bombs near to the houses of Christians in Iraq to force them to leave, offends God and all of humanity," the pope said after his angelus blessing.
Reporting by Catherine Hornby; Editing by Janet Lawrence
(Reuters) - A suspected suicide bomber attacked a church in Egypt's northern city of Alexandria, killing at least 17 people and wounding dozens more as Christians in the Muslim-majority country marked the New Year. Although sectarian tensions often flare, analysts said this incident was on a much bigger scale than the kind of communal violence that can erupt over issues such as building churches or relationships between men and women of the two communities.
Below is list of recent developments related to violence involving Christians in Egypt:
January 1, 2011 -- A suspected suicide bomber hits a church in Alexandria, killing at least 17 and prompting Christians to take to the streets in protest. Some Christians and Muslims pelt each other with stones. Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters.
Nov 24, 2010 -- Clashes between riot police and hundreds of Christians protesting after construction of a church is halted in Cairo takes a sectarian turn as dozens of Muslims join the violence. Two Christians are killed by the violence, and more than 150 people are detained.
November 1, 2010 -- The Islamic State of Iraq, the al Qaeda-affiliated group which claimed responsibility for an attack on a Baghdad church, threatens attacks on the Christian church in Egypt over its treatment of women the group said the church was holding after they had converted to Islam.
April 11, 2010 -- Egyptian group the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights issues a report saying the number of cases of sectarian violence rose between 2008 and 2009 and calls for the prosecution of offenders to prevent a further escalation.
January 6, 2010 -- Six Christians and a Muslim policeman are killed in a drive-by shooting on the eve of the Orthodox Coptic Christmas outside a church in the southern town of Nagaa Hamady. The shooting leads to protests. Some Christian and Muslim homes and shops are set a blaze in the violence.
May 10, 2009 -- A small homemade bomb explodes near a church in Cairo but no one is hurt, security sources say. The device damages a car and a second one is found and detonated by police in the same area in the northeast of the capital, sources say.
(Compiled by Edmund Blair in Cairo; editing by Philippa Fletcher)
CAIRO (Reuters) - Angry Coptic Christians clashed with police on Sunday as they demanded more protection for Egypt's Christians following a New Year's Day church bombing that killed 21 of their brethren.
Hundreds of members of Egypt's large Christian minority protested in Cairo and Alexandria, the northern city where the presumed suicide bomber detonated a device outside a church during a midnight service.
A security source said Egypt was holding seven people for questioning over Saturday's bombing, which also wounded 97 people, and had released 10 others.
At Saint Mark's Cathedral, the Cairo base of Orthodox Pope Shenouda, several hundred young Copts fought police on Sunday as they tried to leave the cathedral grounds and take to the streets to demand more protection for Christians.
Their protest continued into the night, the crowd held back by a cordon of riot police nine men deep. A church official approached the crowd briefly to try to calm them down, without success.
"Security - are you with us or with them?" the men cried. "You government are cowards."
"Pope Shenouda, have a care. We are youth. We will protect you with our blood," the men shouted, many of them holding aloft makeshift wooden crosses. "Revolution, revolution in Egypt, in all churches of Egypt."
Earlier, protestors in Cairo had heckled government officials who visited the cathedral compound to offer condolences: "Where are you, Interior Minister, when they are killing our brothers before your eyes?"
Some protesters pelted a minister's car with stones when he left, witnesses said. Some visiting Christian officials had cars shaken by angry demonstrators, while other protesters scuffled with police outside the compound.
Extra police officers were posted outside several churches in Cairo and Alexandria on Sunday, preventing cars from parking next to the buildings, witnesses said.
Pope Benedict, head of the Roman Catholic church, condemned the bombing as a "vile gesture," the latest in a series of attacks on Christians in the Middle East and Africa.
Egyptian officials said there were indications that "foreign elements" were behind the blast and that it seemed to have been the work of a suicide bomber.
An Iraqi group linked to al Qaeda threatened in November to attack Egypt's Coptic Church. And about two weeks before the bombing, a statement on an Islamist website urged Muslims to attack churches in Egypt and elsewhere around Christmas, which for Orthodox denominations such as the Copts falls on January 7.
A statement on another Islamist website after the blast read: "This is the first drop of heavy rain, hand over our prisoners and turn to Islam." No group was named.
Islamist groups have accused the Church of trying to coerce Christian women who wanted to convert to Islam.
One protester, Nader Shenouda, said: "When there was a threat from al Qaeda a month or a month and a half ago, did the government have to wait till the disaster happened before protecting us?"
Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, the head of al Azhar, Egypt's most prestigious seat of Sunni learning, visited the Muslim Orthodox Coptic Pope Shenouda to express condolences.
President Hosni Mubarak, 82, has pledged to track down the culprit. He made a televised address on Sunday calling for national unity, saying the attack was directed at all Egyptians, not just Christians.
Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 79 million people. Tensions often flare with the majority Muslims over issues such as building churches or close relationships between members of the two faiths.
Analysts said the attack was on a much bigger scale than typical sectarian flare-ups but said laws that make it easier to build a mosque than a church, and similar causes of Christian complaint, meant such an attack would fuel sectarian tension.
Angus Blair, head of research at investment bank Beltone Financial, said the blast was likely to be brushed off by investors in the bourse and was not likely to have a "material negative impact" on tourism, a major revenue source.
(Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh, writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Jon Boyle)
CAIRO (Reuters) - The death toll from a New Year bombing outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria has risen by two to 23, the official news agency MENA said on Tuesday.
Dozens of people were wounded when a presumed suicide bomber detonated a device during a midnight service.
No clear official account has emerged of how the attack was carried out but political analysts point to a small cell, not a large militant group such as those behind an Islamist insurgency that flared more than a decade ago.
A Health Ministry official said 18 bodies had been identified but put the possible number of dead at 22, based on studies of body parts found at the scene.
Billionaire Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom, one of Egypt's biggest listed companies, has offered 1 million Egyptian pounds ($172,500) for information on those behind the January 1 attack, a state newspaper said Tuesday.
The Dutch anti-terrorism agency NCTb has urged police to keep an eye on Coptic churches in three Dutch cities after they were included in Internet threats against Coptic churches in Europe, including France and Britain.
The bombing provoked protests and some clashes with police in Alexandria and the capital, Cairo, by young Christians calling for more protection.
Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 79 million, which is mostly Muslim. Sectarian violence is rare but disputes on issues from church building to religious conversions and divorce have grown in the past year.
Early last year, a drive-by shooting of six Christians and a Muslim policeman at a church in southern Egypt led to protests.
Egyptian officials have said there are indications "foreign elements" were behind the January 1 blast. An Iraqi group linked to al Qaeda threatened in November to attack Egyptian Christians.
(Reporting by Shaimaa Fayed; Additional reporting by Sherine El Madany and Amsterdam bureau; Editing by Andrew Dobbie)
Snaps taken after the Bomb Blast at Coptic Orthodox church in Alexandria, 230 km (140 miles) north of Cairo January 1, 2011. A car bombing outside the church killed 21 people as worshipers gathered to mark the New Year
A bomb, possibly worn by a suicide attacker, ripped through a throng of worshipers outside of a Coptic Christian church in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, early Saturday, killing at least 21 people in the worst attack against Egypt’s Christian minority in recent memory.
Egypt’s Health Ministry said that at least 96 people were wounded in the blast, which occurred shortly after midnight outside the Saints Church as the New Year’s Mass was ending and congregants headed to the doors.
By Saturday evening, patches of blood were visible high on the front walls of the church, which was pockmarked with holes. Across the street, a mosque was also stained with blood.
“There were bodies on the streets,” said Sherif Ibrahim, who saw the blast’s aftermath. “Hands, legs, stomachs. Girls, women and men.”
Government officials quickly blamed foreign terrorists for the bombing and called for national unity. In a televised address hours after the bombing, President Hosni Mubarak said that the authorities had found evidence of “foreign fingers,” adding: “We are all in one trench. We will cut off the head of the snake, and confront terrorism and defeat it.”
But within hours of the explosion, clashes between angry Christians and the security forces outside the church were reminders of a long-simmering domestic conflict.
Periodic violence between members of Egypt’s Muslim majority and Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s 80 million people, have led to accusations that the government ignores, and even exacerbates, a dangerous sectarian divide. Officials often blame local conflicts for such violence, dismissing talk of sectarian tension.
Over the last year, those tensions were repeatedly marked by violence. Last January, Muslim gunmen opened fire on worshipers leaving a church in southern Egypt, killing seven people. In November, Christians angered that the authorities stopped construction on a church clashed with the police in Cairo, leaving one person dead.
There was no clear indication on Saturday of who was behind the bombing, though it followed a warning of sorts from overseas. Last month, a threat appeared on a Web site that claimed to represent a militant group affiliated with Al Qaeda, called the Islamic State of Iraq. The group claimed responsibility for the siege of a Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad in October that left about 60 people dead.
The warning, which promised more violence, referred to a church in Egypt, which it said was holding two women because they had converted to Islam.
Several people who saw the explosion said it had come from a car bomb. Sameh Atallah said that around 12:15 a.m., a man got out of a car in front of the church. “He was talking on the phone for not even a minute and his car exploded,” Mr. Atallah said.
In a statement, the country’s Interior Ministry said a preliminary investigation pointed to a suicide bomber and not a car bomb. It said the investigation had found that a locally made explosive, filled with nails and ball bearings, was worn by a bomber who was killed in the attack.
There seemed to be some agreement that the attack, because of its ferocity and the possible involvement of a suicide bomber, represented something new. Diaa Rashwan of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that while Al Qaeda has no presence in Egypt, “This is a new method. It has Al Qaeda features. I think it is a group of Egyptians who were planning this for a while.”
Outside the church late Saturday night, interviews revealed a fractured community. People who identified themselves as Christian were quick to say that Egyptians were behind the bombing, while Muslims said it was the work of outsiders.
“We’re going to die here,” said Mr. Ibrahim, who saw the bombing’s aftermath. “But our churches are here. Our lives are here. What will we do?”
Writing after the bombing on Ahram Online, its editor, Hani Shukrallah, criticized “supposedly moderate Muslims” for being “narrow-minded” and blamed the government for amplifying sectarian tensions.
It was time, he wrote, for Egyptians to face up to a hard reality: “The massacres continue, each more horrible than the one before, and the bigotry and intolerance spread deeper and wider into every nook and cranny of our society.”
An Egypt without Christians was no longer hard to imagine, he wrote, adding, “This will be an Egypt which I do not recognize and to which I have no desire to belong.”
Kareem Fahim reported from New York, and Liam Stack from Alexandria, Egypt. Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo.