Dabaaya village in Luxor [Upper Egypt] witnessed attacks on its Coptic locals last Friday, which resulted in the murder of four Copts and the injury of three others, as well as the burning and looting of 23 houses of Christian families.
Most of the village Copts fled the city, while those who remained are staying in the local church for fear of repeated attacks.
MCN's correspondent recounted a visit to the village:
A car took us 13 kilometers away from the city of Luxor to reach Dabaaya village. The situation seemed to be cautiously calm, and our target was to reach Nag Hassan where the attacks took place, which is about a kilometer away from the local church. But, we stopped at the church, which had turned into a shelter for victims of these attacks.
The car parked in front of St. John Church, the screams of the women inside echoing throughout the place. We entered to see the victims wearing black clothes and lying on the ground, some crying and others screaming, and some simply not moving, tired of the pain and suffering.
The church sheltered all the victims who have lost their families and homes, and are threatened to be killed any minute should attacks be repeated, especially with continuous threats from militants if they report the perpetrators to the police.
Some of them managed to collect themselves enough to speak to MCN of their catastrophe, while others refused to talk, preferring silence for fear for their children. They believe talking will not benefit them, as it will not return their homes to them nor punish the perpetrators.
MCN spoke with victims’ families, staying with them inside the church. They were unable to eat the food they were given, as they were in shock, after militants stormed their houses while police stood idly by watching the murder of Copts. Women pleaded with the police to rescue their husbands, but they only transported the women to armored vehicles to the nearby church, leaving the men prey for extremists.
The police left the militants to continue attacking, stabbing six men, resulting in the death of four.
MCN team could not reach Nag Sultan on the first day of arriving, due to the intense security activity, spending their first night inside the church with the victims’ families.
The church’s priests took part of an initiative put forward by some Muslim sheikhs, which would return some Christian families back to their homes, which were not destroyed by the flames. Those who returned shut themselves in for fear of being attacked, while the rest of the victims remained at the church.
On the second day, we managed to get through the security blockade and reach Nag Sultan, where one of the local youth led us to Emil Nessim Sarofim’s house, who was murdered in the attack.
Upon arriving, we found smoke still rising from the windows, despite it being three days since the house was burnt, with signs of storming evident on the front iron gate. All three storeys had been burnt completely with evidences of looting in all of them, and the rest of the furniture turned to piles of ash, sparing only some of the birds that the family was raising on top of the building, after the assailants blew up a gas cylinder inside of it.
Emile Nessim’s widow spoke of how the attackers stormed their home looking for her husband, who worked in tourism, as he was working for the Tamarod campaign in the village. The Tamarod [Rebel] campaign collected signatures to withdraw confidence from now deposed President Morsi.
She said she attempted to hide her husband when they came for him, concealing him beneath layers of fabric. She then ran out the backdoor with her children to the neighbors.
The attack took place at around 7:00 pm, looting and destroying the house. Nessim tried to escape but was found by the militants, who beat him on the head with sharp objects.
His wife and children were transported to the nearby church, after militants also attacked the neighboring houses. After negotiations between security forces and assailants, they agreed to let the women and the children leave, but the men had to stay behind. Security forces asked the women to leave, and some women dressed their husbands up to look like women, but security forces discovered their attempts and refused to let them leave, despite the women begging for mercy.
After they were done transporting the women, security forces allowed the perpetrators to enter the neighbor’s house, killing three of the four men inside, and later security forces found Emile Nessim in a critical state between the houses. He was transported to Luxor Hospital, only to die the next day, leaving behind his family. The village lost four of its men, while three others are in critical state.