NGO: Armed Gangs Plunder Minia's Copts and Impose Tributes on Them

A delegation of Justice and Development Human Rights Organization has monitored a number of attacks and blackmails by armed gangs against the Christians of Al-Minia Governorate, namely the municipalities of Abu Qurkas and Mallawi where a number of people were kidnapped and released for large ransoms, threatened and extorted for money, or had their houses completely seized by some of these gang members, again, only releasing the homes to their owners after receiving large amounts of money.

 Essam Charlie Ghattas, who lives in Nazlet Ebeid, a Christian majority village, was kidnapped at gun point and held by his abducters who plundered him of EGP 12,000 and his cell phone. Essam managed to run away while they are asleep.

In the same village, 40 year old Zahran Sorian was threatened with kidnap if he does not agree to pay. He filed a police report.

 In Beni Khaled, a village in Mallawi, 19 year old Ayman Atta had his right ear mutilated when he refused to pay an immediate tribute of EGP 200; he too filed a police report.

 In Mallawi's commercial and most vibrant street of El Meguidi, an armed group demolished a back wall of a rebar warehouse owned by Magdi Lawendi in order to rob it, but ran away when they could not finish the job. Mr. Lawendi rebuilt the wall though it was demolished again.

 Furthermore, there are several examples of people who paid thousands of pounds to be saved from attacks, kidnaps and threats, people who did not report to the police for fear of their lives and the lives of their families, such as Reda Agaibi who paid EGP 75,000.00, Farrag Hanna who was blackmailed twice paying EGP 150,000, then 100,000 that he did not report to the police, finally reporting it only when he was contacted for the third time, one week later.

 A more flagrant example of criminal and blackmail acts directed against Christians, again in Mallawi, is the seizure of several empty houses and the forging of false ownership contracts, while forcing the owners to pay large amounts to retrieve their properties. Nayer Labib had to pay EGP 200,000. to regain control of his house, while Mokbel Wadi' paid EGP 50,000. In the meantime, Saleh Moussa's house is still under the gang's control, due to the high sum the gang is requesting to evacuate the house, given the high sales value of the property; estimated at 10 million Egyptian pounds. Unofficial reports suggest that there are as many as 40 houses in Mallawi, owned by Christians, that have been seized by these gangs.

 These gangs have chosen Copts to target due to their vulnerable situation, and the authorities' lack of will to protect Egypt’s Christian citizens. It is very rare any one gets arrested or condemned for crimes committed against Christians.

 Atef Shaker, head of the NGO, concludes his reports by pleading security forces and President Morsy to take rapid action in protecting Christians of Minia and their properties, and control the circulation of weapons in Upper Egypt, especially since these gangs form armed militias that further threaten national security.


Adapted by Coptic Solidarity from Al Ahaly, 8/19/2012





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