- (Photo: Reuters video)
Four people, including an eight-year-old girl, were killed outside a wedding ceremony at a Coptic Christian church in Cairo after masked gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on Sunday night, local officials said.
The attack occurred when guests were leaving the Virgin Mary Church in Cairo's Waraa neighborhood, and is the latest violent incident against Christians in Egypt.
"What is happening is that all of Egypt is being targeted, not just the Christians," said Fr. Dawoud, a priest at the Virgin Mary Church. "Enough! People are getting sick and tired of this."
"What happened is an insult to Egypt, and it's not only directed against Coptic Christians. We are destroying our own country," added Coptic priest Thomas Daoud Ibrahim, who was inside the church when the gunfire occurred, BBC News shared.
Ibrahim said that he rushed outside the church after he heard the gunshots to find a dead man and a dead woman, including many others who were injured in the sudden attack. Senior health ministry official added that four people in total were killed, including an eight-year-old girl.
"We heard a very loud sound as if something was collapsing," shared one of the eyewitnesses.
"I found a woman seated in a chair with lots of bullet wounds, covered in blood. Many other people had fallen around her, including a child."
The motive for the attack was not immediately made clear, but the minority Coptic Christian population has found itself in the center of hostile attacks by Islamic extremists in recent months following the ousting of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.
Several persecution watchdog groups, including Open Doors USA, have condemned the violence, while Coptic Christians have described the attacks as nothing short of satanic.
"The attack against the Christians of Egypt is nothing less than a furious satanic attack that aims at terrorizing Christians, imprisoning them at their homes helplessly with no guarantee of protection so their love, peace, hope and testimony may be neutralized," an anonymous Christian leader has said, whose name was withheld for security reasons.
"We, Christians of Egypt, are facing a severe time of persecution and suffering that we may have not witnessed since the Roman times!"
Several Egyptian leaders have spoken out against Sunday night's attack, including interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, who called it a "callous and criminal act," according to The Associated Press. He added that "such heinous acts will not successfully segregate the two elements of the nation, the Muslims and Christians, and the government will be very firm in the face of all those desperate attempts to sow the seeds of sectarianism."
Top Sunni Islam cleric Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb also said in a statement on Monday that he is against such violence.
"It is a criminal act that runs contrary to both religion and morals," he said.
Close to 40 Coptic churches have been destroyed following the escalation of violence in August, AP noted, with most of the attacks occurring south of Cairo where Christian communities are targeted by Islamic militants.